•Seeks independent probe
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The embattled former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onaneife Ibori, has said there are revelations exposing some of the British police officers handling his case of engaging in corrupt practices and abuse of court processes.
He said the revelations showed that some of the police officers handling his prosecution engaged in corruption and abusage of the British court process such as disclosure rules guiding British court procedures.
In a statement issued yesterday by Head of James Ibori’s Media Office, Tony Eluemunor, the former governor who is seeking to quash his prison sentence in Britain, said the British National Crime Agency (NCA) has confirmed the allegations.
He that police officers, working within the elite Department for International Development funded Police Unit working with prosecutions were corrupt and had withheld substantial material from the defence teams.
“In a dramatic turn of events, the British National Crime Agency (NCA) has confirmed that Police officers, working within the elite Department for International Development funded Police Unit at the heart of the Ibori and linked prosecutions were corrupt and had withheld substantial material from the defence teams,” Ibori’s aide said.
Eluemunor said it had become necessary for the Media Office to correct the wrong interpretation given to last week’s statement from the NCA, but which was misunderstood by Nigerian media to mean that Ibori’s conviction was upheld by an Appeal Court.
Accordingly, some television stations had from last Friday through Saturday published the lie that a British court had upheld Ibori’s conviction.
“The NCA report simply confirmed explosive revelations of corruption and abusage of the British court process by the Prosecution Service, such as disclosure of rules guiding British court procedures. The report is a damning and fatal indictment on the prosecution of the Ibori and linked cases.
“The report however strangely concluded that the police officers’ corruption in the case and their withholding of material from the defence do not undermine the safety of the convictions. This surprising finding is at odds with the primary findings and so will now be tested to its fullest in the British courts.
“The question was whether there were malicious cover-ups and if the courts were misled; and the reports said yes, there were. Thus, at best, the report is another cover-up for an earlier cover up, and an attempt at media manipulation. But the Crown Prosecution Service cannot fundamentally determine whether the conviction is safe or doomed; only the courts can so determine.
“Also, an independent investigation will be called to determine and document the police corruption and lack of due process levels for posterity.
“The two fundamental developments in relation to corruption and the withholding of material represent a tremendous victory for Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s former lawyer, who has long maintained police corruption and misconduct at the heart of these prosecutions. Gohil has taken the matter before the Appeal Courts,” he said.
Eluemunor added in his statement that even the report did not exonerate Detective Sergeant John McDonald, the officer at the heart of the Ibori investigation, from corrupt payments allegations.
He said: “The case demonstrates the truly shocking behaviour of the British Crown Prosecution Service. Despite the over whelming evidence of corruption by British anti-corruption officers, it continues to prosecute James Ibori and others when it now has in its possession evidence as to the source of his funds. It is believed that Ms. Saunders’s position is now untenable. As the Director of Public Prosecutions, she has engineered a shocking cover-up.”
He further said surprisingly, the September 16, 2016 BBC report written by the Home Editor, Mark Easton, and entitled: ‘New evidence Supports Cover-up Claims in Ibori Case’ is totally different from what appeared in the Nigerian media.
Quoting the BBC report, Eluemunor said: “Claims that Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) covered up evidence of police corruption in a high-profile money-laundering case have been given new weight after the discovery of a substantial number of documents suggesting an officer did take bribes.
“The previously undisclosed material came to light after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, demanded a review into the conviction of, Ibori.
“The internal investigation followed allegations by defence lawyers that prosecutors had ‘willfully misled’ judges about the existence of evidence that could support corruption claims. Now defence solicitors are being sent previously unseen documents discovered during the review.”
In a statement the CPS reveals how “the review team found material to support the assertion that a police officer received payment in return for information.”
“The review team has now concluded that this material should have been disclosed to the defence and the process of disclosure to relevant parties is under way.
“Prosecutors had previously denied there was any undisclosed material to support the corruption allegations and the admission that considerable documentation exists and should have been handed over, represents an embarrassing climb-down for the CPS.
“Questions about the safety of the convictions emerged after a bundle of documents was sent to the authorities purporting to show that police had accepted bribes from private detectives hired by Mr Ibori.
Ibori’s solicitor, Bhadresh Gohil, had sent the documents anonymously while he was in prison. He protests his innocence and claims he is a whistleblower exposing possible police corruption.
It was alleged that the officer heading the DfID-funded unit, DS John McDonald, received payments in return for providing information to Ibori about the case. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
The allegations were investigated by Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), which identified “no misconduct” and concluded the documents were forgeries.
Mr Gohil was subsequently charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Digging further into the corruption case, Eluemunor said the prosecutors had alleged that he had faked the documents to try to get his conviction overturned on appeal.
But the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned a planned trial in January this year amid the defence claims that crucial evidence of alleged police corruption had been covered up.
According Ibori’s aide, despite its discovery of previously undisclosed documents supporting claims of corruption, the Crown Prosecution Service says it “is confident that these prosecutions, which included four guilty pleas, remain safe.”
However, in a press statement, lawyers for Gohil say “the question of whether any of the convictions are safe is a matter which is currently subjudice.”
Asset confiscation proceedings for Ibori are still on-going and defence lawyers have lodged appeals against the conviction of Ibori and others. “Defendants in the cases have submitted grounds of appeal to the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division and the proceedings will not be litigated before the court until 2017,” the statement on behalf of Gohil says.
“The principal question before the court is whether the convictions are safe by virtue of the CPS and prosecuting counsel having deliberately misled the courts on a number of occasions in respect of a number of defendants over a period of five years,” the BBC report concluded.