UK court to restart $145m Ibori assets-confiscation case

Ibori goes to jail08 October 2013, London – Hearing in the case of confiscation of 90 million pounds (about 145 million dollars) worth of assets belonging to ex-gov. James Ibori ended inconclusively on Monday in a British court.

The case will now start afresh next year.

James Ibori, governor of the oil-producing state of Delta in southern Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, is serving a 13-year jail sentence in a British jail.

This was after he pleaded guilty in February 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.

Once an influential power-broker at the heart of Nigeria’s ruling PDP, he is by far the most senior politician to be held accountable for the corruption.

The confiscation proceedings against him will determine whether he emerges from jail impoverished or still in possession of a large enough fortune to regain a position of influence in Nigeria.

Ibori will become eligible for early release in March 2016.

In a hearing which began at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Sept. 16, prosecutors were seeking a court order to confiscate a long list of assets.

They were relying on Ibori’s guilty pleas as proof that his assets worth close to 90 million pounds were the proceeds of corruption during his time in office.

The defence argued that the guilty pleas did not prove that the assets were benefits of Ibori’s crimes.

After three weeks in court, Judge Anthony Pitts said in order to make an informed ruling he needed a better grip on the evidence underlying the case.

He said the hearing should start again from scratch next year, at a date to be determined later.

At the new hearing, which could last months, the prosecution will present evidence it had prepared for Ibori’s trial, which was scheduled to start in February 2012.

The trial then never took place because Ibori entered his guilty pleas on the first morning.

One of the most contentious issues to emerge during the confiscation hearing was an allegation by the prosecution that Ibori may have hidden assets in Oando, Nigeria’s biggest home-grown energy firm.

This had caused Oando’s share price to fall by 20 per cent in two days.

Oando disputed the allegation in statements and via Andrew Baillie, a lawyer representing its interests in court.

Baillie told the judge on Monday that there was “no evidence of any connection between Ibori and Oando Plc’’.

He asked him to make a formal finding to that effect when the case finally concludes, even though Pitts gave no indication of whether he would make any such finding.

The prosecution has however maintained the allegation.

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