Agha Ibiam in London
The Southwark Crown Court sitting in London has said that the former governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori, may appear in court in June to give further evidence on some knotty issues concerning his involvement in the defrauding of Delta State of huge sums of money.
The statement was made today by His Honour, Judge David Tomlinson, during a preliminary hearing held at Court 13, regarding Ibori’s assets confiscation which has received series of adjournments since October 2013, specifically for the prosecution to call witnesses.
The idea of producing Ibori in court came up when the Judge asked Krolick if Ibori will be appearing in court to give evidence in June, to which Ivan Krolick said he has no instruction.
It was on that note that the judge said that he wouldn’t further delay the hearing, and that if Ibori could be put on link, that would be fine. He then said there were three large sums of money in question and potentially, you do not know whether Ibori wants to be in court.
“I will talk to the court for the surpose of achieving that,” judge Tomlison said. The judge said that he was trying to work out what direction to take.
However, he said regardless of the open-ended plea made by Ibori which led to his sentencing to 13 years imprisonment, there should be a parameter. Though he emphatically said that he does not want anyone to think that he is pre-judging the case before time.
Ibori, who should have been home since March, is still held at Huntercoombe Prison in Oxfordshire and his earliest release from the prison will be upon payment of any amount ordered on the confiscation.
But before hearing commenced, the court registrar first asked Ibori’s defence counsel, if he, Ibori, would appear in court yesterday. The answer to that question was unsatisfactory, which again led the registrar to make a call for confirmation.
But the judge had to reiterate the question after listening to the prosecuting team led by Jonathan Kinnear QC, as he stood for an hour to present his hearing to the judge, at least being the first time he was appearing in court after the British Prosecutor, Sasha Wass QC and her junior Esther Shutzer-Weissman, were refused from handling the case any further.
Kinnear took his time to tell the judge that the team had a monumental task to go through the bundle of information so as to ensure that the case will be ready before the hearing in June. “In reality, we just have to finalise the roadmap on how to get there,” Kinnear said, adding that Ibori would have been released in March if not the delay posed by the hearing on confiscation of assets.
The QC said he had made enquiries with the Home Office and it is obvious that Ibori will not breath the air of freedom until possibly December when perhaps the case must have been decided. He said there was the need for the court to decide when it will be appropriate to commence expert evidence before the hearing.
Kinnear took time to inform the judge that the crown relied on the bundle of evidence which was produced on electronic format and which will be easily assessed because they were indexed.
On what he called ‘disclosure management document’ which he handed over to the judge, he said disclosure can be made in different formats and that his team required no intelligence as to know what it is.
“We are approaching this matter with objectivity and not from hear-say. We will work tirelessly on this matter to unearth whatever belongs to the people of Delta State, realisable assets and a lot which has nailed him in the past,” Kinnear said.
Judge Tomlison however said that he has a feeling that Krolick would like to have this hearing soon because of the nature of his client.
When Mr. Krolick took the stage, he first of all told the Judge that his submission will be a kind of dialogue and not the usual way of presentation. He said for over two and half years this case was adjourned, that a lot has happened.
He told his honour that Ibori’s case has been enmeshed with police corruption and abuse of process on the confiscation. Therefore, his team have to be concerned on the integrity of prosecution because the system has been manipulated on the case.
“We want to hear their review which may not be ready until the end of August. In 2011, there was publicity in the press relating police corruption on Ibori’s case. Again, there is a calculated plan to inflate the amount in this confiscation,” he told the Judge.
Krolick then said that the totality of the whole incident was that crown prosecution changed it counsel, reasoning that if it were from the defence team that changed its team, the court would have refused it.
Giving his view on the issue raised by Krolick, Judge Tomlison said that he is not casting aspersion anywhere, that is all about perception. The court tends to look very carefully to changes on representatives which was not in an unacceptable way.
He admitted that it is a monumental task for a new team to continue the case as it were, but that allegations have been made and that when there is a new team, there will be difficulties.
Krolick insisted that Ibori had a strong case of abuse of process, doubting if his client will ever get a fair hearing.
The confiscation of assets trial could last for four weeks from June 6.