Agha Ibiam in London
The lingering confiscation of assets hearing of former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, in London which was listed to commence in May has now been adjourned to June 6, Mr. Bhadresh Gohil, the former governor’s lawyer has said.
This is the second time that the hearing would be adjourned due to technical hindrances.
Ibori is currently held at Huntercoombe Prison in Oxfordshire United Kingdom, and his earliest release from the prison will be upon payment of any amount ordered on the confiscation, Gohil hinted.
Also, Gohil, who yesterday filed fresh appeal papers in the UK Court of Appeal seeking to quash his convictions in both the Ibori and VMobile cases, revealed that there was nothing straightforward about the case.
“The confiscation proceedings will now start on June 6. The prosecution recently confirmed that they were not going to call any witnesses to support the case but were intending to rely on documents alone. This is surprising because the last confiscation hearing in October 2013 was adjourned specifically for the prosecution to call witnesses.
“This was the three-week hearing, which heard the testimony of the former Cchairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, and various police officers now implicated in the UK police corruption scandal, and therefore the judge (Pitts) was unable to reach a decision on the benefit figure,” he said.
He said it would be exceptionally interesting considering that the Ibori’s team produced evidence that none of the funds could be traced back to Delta State.
Though countering that statement, Judge Pitts had told the court that since Ibori was convicted by his own plea based on evidence, he was not going to call for the retrial of his case.
However, it would be recalled that it was Judge Pitts, the judge in-charge of the £89million confiscation of assets hearing of the former governor, who put the hearing on hold due to his (Pitts) ill-health at that time.
As it is, Judge David Tomlinson might be presiding over a case that would take him time to comprehend, more so now that the Crown prosecutor, Shasha Wass, and Esther Schutzer-Wisemann, are now at large on the case they had more evidence than any other incoming Crown prosecutor.
Filling his appeal yesterday counsel for Gohil, Stephen Kamlish QC, set out in detail the two primary bases of this first phase of the appeal.
The grounds he said are the police corruption existed at the heart of the Ibori/Gohil and linked prosecutions.
Secondly, that the British Prosecutors, Sasha Wass QC and her junior Esther Shutzer-Weissman, deliberately misled the Court of Appeal at the last hearing at which Gohil sought to overturn the convictions.
The appeal also sets out the staggering and ensuing cover-up engineered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Metropolitan Police (MPS) and Wass QC by deliberately suppressing vital evidence from the various defence teams.
Kamlish maintained that there existed a corrupt relationship at the heart of the police investigation.
He said the Metropolitan Police anti-corruption officers uncovered evidence which compellingly demonstrated that there had been a corrupt relationship between the officers investigating the Gohil/Ibori case, in particular, DC John McDonald – the officer who headed the Ibori/Gohil investigation and RISC Management Limited, a private investigations company.
“Evidence now shows this corrupt relationship involved the passing of information about the police investigation to RISC in return for cash payments but more critically for Gohil, it was in fact RISC that was from the very beginning unlawfully passing confidential information about his case to police,” he said.
But a law expert who refused to disclose his identity said Ibori’s case is not over yet until final verdict is heard. He said whether the hunter would be hunted in this case is a matter of time, adding that there is no way Ibori will be totally free without having some assets and investments to spare.