Monday, April 15, 2024

Ibori kicks as UK moves to confiscate $129m belonging to him

A state prosecutor on Thursday asked a London court to order the confiscation of more than 100 million pounds ($129 million) from Nigerian politician and ex-Delta State governor, James Ibori, Reuters reports.

Ibori had earlier been convicted for fraud in the United Kingdom and the ex-governor spent years in prison in Britain.

Ibori was extradited in 2011 from Dubai to London, where he was charged with laundering a “corruptly acquired fortune”.

He pleaded guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering and received a 13-year jail sentence, an outcome hailed by Britain as a landmark in the struggle against corruption.

With its highly developed financial and legal services and lucrative property market, Britain is a global money-laundering hub, but it is rare for the foreign kleptocrats it attracts to be prosecuted and Ibori’s case remains an outlier.

After more than a decade of legal wrangling and court delays, attempts by prosecutors to confiscate funds considered to be the benefits of Ibori’s fraudulent activities now appear close to conclusion.

Judge David Tomlinson of Southwark Crown Court has made factual findings regarding the funds.

At a hearing on Thursday, both sides made competing arguments about how the confiscation figures should be calculated, taking into account the judge’s findings.

He is expected to finalise and formally issue his order on Friday or shortly afterward.

Lead prosecution counsel, Jonathan Kinnear, told the court that the total amount that should be confiscated from Ibori was 101.5 million pounds and that if he did not pay up he should be sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison.

Having served half of his prison sentence in pre- and post-trial detention, as is common, Ibori returned to Nigeria in 2017 and did not attend Thursday’s hearing.

He told Reuters by text message he planned to appeal against the confiscation order.

Ibori remains influential and well-connected in Nigerian politics.

President Bola Tinubu, who was inaugurated in May, has hosted Ibori twice at the presidential villa, along with other former governors.

Britain has pledged to return any money recovered from Ibori to Nigeria.

In 2021, it returned 4.2 million pounds that had been confiscated from Ibori’s ex-wife and his sister, who also served jail time for helping him launder money.

But reacting to Thursday’s proceeding on his Facebook page, the former Delta State Governor said his hope was “rapidly fading” for a fair hearing.

He also announced plans to seek redress and fight for justice in the highest courts in the UK.

He said, “Finally, the shenanigans in the Southwark Crown Court are drawing to a close. Judge Tomlinson is due to make a confiscation order which should be both realisable and not punitive.

“However, after what transpired in court today my hopes are rapidly fading for any degree of fairness.

“In the 2 years it has taken to write this judgment it seems apparent that he has forgotten many of the salient points and is prioritising expediency over justice.

“The next step will be to take my fight for justice to the highest courts in the UK.”

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