UK Seeks to Confiscate Ibori’s Assets as Trial Resumes

James  Ibori

James Ibori

Peter Uzoho with agency report

A British prosecutor Thursday in London launched a fresh attempt to confiscate millions of pounds allegedly stolen from Delta State by its former Governor, Chief James Ibori, who was convicted of laundering his loot in Britain.

This is coming as the Britain’s National Crime Agency has estimated that around one billion pounds in dirty money moves into or through the United Kingdom every year, saying Ibori is one of the only ultimate beneficiaries of such practices to have been convicted.

Ibori, who governed Delta from 1999 to 2007, had reportedly pleaded guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering, and thereafter, received a 13-year jail sentence.

Reuters described the case as a rare example of a prominent Nigerian politician being punished for his part in the endemic corruption that has blighted Africa’s most populous country for decades.

It added that since then, several other Nigerian former state governors have been convicted in their own country.

Having served half of his sentence in pre- and post-trial detention, Ibori was released from jail in December 2016 and is now back in Nigeria.

In 2013, a first attempt was made in Britain to confiscate his assets, but it was aborted after three weeks of hearings because of unresolved legal disputes.

Then the confiscation process was stalled for several years while Ibori and several of his associates, who had been convicted for their roles in laundering his money, appealed unsuccessfully against their convictions.

However, restarting the process at Southwark yesterday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Jonathan Kinnear, reportedly listed assets said to have Ben laundered by the ex-governor.

Kinnear was quoted to have put the total value of the known proceeds of Ibori’s crimes at £117 million ($153 million), stating that only a portion of that sum was likely to be recoverable.

According to Reuters, during his time in office, Ibori reportedly amassed a portfolio of luxury properties in Nigeria, London, Washington, Houston and Johannesburg, traveled all over the world, staying in the most expensive hotels and spending lavishly in luxury stores.

It noted that Ibori’s lifestyle during those years was a far cry from his modest beginnings in life, adding: “as a young man, he had worked as a shop assistant at a branch of the home improvements chain Wickes in London, where he was caught trying to steal from the store and was convicted of theft”.

The case is expected to last around four weeks.

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