Former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, has appealed against his conviction in April by a Southwark Crown Court for money laundering.
His appeal, THISDAY learnt Monday, was among the reasons why the court could not hear a case on the confiscation of his assets, earlier scheduled for the day.
While his appeal hearing will be held at the Royal Court of Justice in London at a date yet to be determined, another legal team, different from the one that represented him at his stalled asset confiscation hearing yesterday, might handle the appeal case.
Ibori, who was supposed to return to the court for his assets confiscation hearing, was, however, absent as Judge Anthony Pitts rescheduled the case for next year after taking arguments from both the prosecution and defence counsel.
It was also learnt that the jailed former governor has been moved from Wandsworth Prison in London, where he was serving his 13-year jail term, to Long Lartin Prison in South Littleton, Worcestershire.
When the court began sitting at about 10.20 am Monday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Sasha Wass, requested that a new confiscation hearing date be fixed since so many changes had occurred, especially from Ibori’s legal team.
She told Judge Pitts, who jailed Ibori 13 years, that since Ibori’s legal representation has changed and more of his looted property unearthed in different parts of the world, especially the recent ones in the United States, it would be expedient to give more time for further investigations designed to reveal further undisclosed property.
She said three major events had occured in the last five months since Ibori’s conviction that could affect the hearing of the case.
These, according to her, are that Ibori’s former London lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, was intending to appeal his sentence and make serious allegations against risk management and that of Ibori and his family.
Second, Ibori has been given leave to appeal his sentence which will affect the confiscation proceedings, and lastly, the former governor has refused to sign his means declaration and the eventual revelation of his two property in the US and in other places, which he was not willing to disclose.
Sasha further argued that more time was needed to investigate Ibori’s estate and some recent statements by the police.
She therefore requested that a new timetable be set for the confiscation hearing for June 20, 2013. The hearing will run for three weeks before a decision is taken.
But Ivan Krolick, the Queen’s Counsel (QC) representing Ibori, told the judge that there was no need to subject Ibori to another investigation.
He argued that the case, which has been under detailed investigation and which led to the conviction of Ibori and some of his associates, was enough evidence on its own.
“Further investigation is not necessary and nothing has been put further before you justifying the investigation,” Krolick said.
But Sasha insisted that Ibori had not signed the means declaration and that had strengthened the suspicion that he is not honest and also that the property in the US has proven that there is more property that has not been revealed.
Sasha, who blamed Ibori’s refusal to appear in court on his dishonesty, added: “We are asking for time to investigate his property and his family members.”
Judge Pitts agreed with her submission that Ibori was dishonest in declaring his assets.
But prior to Ibori’s trial, the judge had said that what should have been a three-month trial was cut short by the convict’s guilty plea, noting that this was why Ibori was given a shorter jail term.
He said it was unfortunate that Ibori’s high-powered legal team had left and therefore the need to set a new realistic date because this was an important matter.
The judge confirmed that initially the timetable was pushed back to allow for a three-week confiscation hearing, which he said was unusual.