Gets 13-year jail term, loses assets
Nigerians celebrate conviction
Britain vows to root out graft
High-risk prison for ex-governor
THE Ibori clan in British prisons swelled by one yesterday. And he is the head of the family. Two-time governor of Delta State James Onanefe Ibori, will now have the chance to hold court over his women, lawyer, and other associates in a British cell.
Members of the Ibori’s family that are British prisons for oiling the corruption machinery of the former governor are his wife, Theresa Nkoyo, sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie, mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, his lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, a financial agent, Daniel Benedict McCann, and corporate financier Lambertus De Boer.
Nigerians yesterday took turns tweeting their delight at the sentencing of Ibori. Many avidly followed the court proceedings against the former governor. A court appearance by former Aston Villa footballer. The country’s nationals in London took to the court thanking the British government for sentencing Ibori, who they remember for. He was sentenced by Judge Anthony Pitts to 13 years in prison for corruption and money laundering offences at 3.20 p.m. British time at the Southwark Crown Court 9 in London.
Ibori will, however, serve only about four years and nine months as the days he had spent in detention were deducted from the jail term.
Handing down the judgment to a silent courtroom, Pitts said: “Total sentence which I impose on you is 13 years. You are to serve half of that. The 625 days which you have spent in custody are to be credited to the amount of years to serve.”
This implies that Ibori will spend at least four years and nine months before he is deported to Nigeria like other foreign criminals who serve terms in a British jail.
Speaking exclusively under anonymity to The Guardian during the lunch break, one of the detectives who was involved both in this prosecution and that of former Bayesla State Governor, Deprieye Alamieyeseigha, said would remain at Wandsworth Prison where he had been kept since his extradition to the United Kingdom in April 2011.
Plans for the former governor in gaol
When asked where Ibori would spend his term, the detective said: “He will still be at Wandsworth and he may be there for months, until they categorise him. But I am sure he’s going to be categorised as a high-risk prisoner because of the huge sums of money to be confiscated.
“We (the prosecutors) won’t want him to be transferred to a low risk prison where he will have the freedom to walk about in the garden. He may want to abscond, so he’s definitely going to be under the category of high-risk.”
Before sending him down, Pitts stated that in giving Ibori “discounts” for his jail term, he factored in the fact that the accused pleaded guilty plea on February 27, 2012 rather than allowing the case to proceed to a 12-week jury trial.
Another interesting revelation made by the Judge was that Ibori was to be tried separately for V- Mobile fraud for which he and his associates formed a sham company, ADZ and for which they paid themselves $37 million for work they never did.
Judge explains minimal jail terms
According to Pitts, this particular trial was scheduled to begin in January and it would have lasted at least another three months. “If you had fought – legally and later found guilty, you would have got 24 years imprisonment. “
However, members of his legal team made a smart move on February 24, 2012 when they contacted the prosecutors to say their client was taking a guilty plea, thereby saving the court time and British taxpayers’ money, which according to the judge, “would have been a colossal sum.”
Going to great length to read out the sentencing notes, Pitts told Ibori, who looked apprehensive behind the glass dock that “a plea on the first day of trial attracts a discount of 10 per cent or less.” Pitts therefore reduced the term, saying: “I am prepared to give you a further one third discount.” In fact, “I am prepared to give proper discounts for those pleas.”
On the judge’s generous discounts, Detective Peter Clarke told The Guardian that had the jury been convened for the minimum period of six months, which the case would have taken, each week of a jury trial normally costs about £40,000.
In essence, Ibori did the smart thing to plead guilty on the opening day on February 27, 2012 rather than allow the British tax-payers’ fund the cost of two jury trials.
Since the prosecution of the Iboris started, only the former assistant to the then governor, Adebimpe Pogoson, had been acquitted by the court.
Ibori-Ibie was convicted for helping her brother to embezzle an estimated $101.5 million while in office.
Britain vows to crush graft
After the former governor’s conviction, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, in a statement, said: “During his two terms as governor of Delta State, James Ibori deliberately and systematically defrauded the people whose interests he had been elected to represent. Very significant cooperation was secured from many countries worldwide to enable us to bring this prosecution.”
Pleas by lawyer, Fashanu
Before the court gave its verdict, spirited efforts were made by Ibori’s lawyer Nicholas Pernell and veteran sportsman John Fashanu to secure a lenient sentence for him.
Pernell blamed Ibori’s ordeal on Gohil and a former governor of one of the South-South states for the V-Mobile scam, claiming that they were the architects of the fraud.
He also cited his client’s contributions to the development of Delta State and Nigeria, especially in the banking reforms, peace in the Niger Delta, education, and building of low-cost housing estates.
The lawyer added that Ibori had played a critical role in the British industry even before he became governor. As evidence, he presented a letter from British Airways, thanking the former governor for restoring direct flights between Nigeria and Britain.
He therefore asked the judge to consider the pressure that his client had been under since investigations began in the matter 2005, and also Ibori’s children, who now have both parents in custody before passing his sentence.
Fashanu, who appeared in the court yesterday, said Ibori achieved a lot in sports, and was instrumental to the end of militancy in the state.
He told the court that Ibori built nine mini-sports stadia and three Olympic-sized stadia in Delta and also built the first shooting range in Nigeria.
When the court, which went for a recess at 12.30 p.m. reconvened at 2.25 p.m. the sentence was read.
Property to be forfeited by Ibori
Judge Pitts said the sentencing would not be the end of the matter, as his (Ibori’s) property would also be confiscated.
The property, which are affected by the judgment are:
• A house in Hampstead, North London worth £2.2 million;
• a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000;
• a £3.2 million mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa;
• a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000;
• a £120,000 Bentley, and
• a Mercedes Maybach for 407,000 Euros that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa.
The sentencing trial began on Monday, with the court listening to closing arguments from the prosecution and defence. The prosecution had described Ibori as “a common thief,” whose looting of Delta State was mind-boggling.
When the hearing resumed yesterday, the judge said the “history of dishonesty, corruption and theft in the first indictment would alone attract the maximum or close to the maximum sentence allowed by law, but there is another indictment of serious fraud which you have pleaded guilty to.”
He made mention of the V-Mobile shares fraud in which Ibori was indicted and described it as a “confidence trick.”
The judge also made reference to a $15 million bribe allegedly offered former EFCC Chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, by Ibori some years ago.
Ibori had admitted 10 counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering before the court.
The former governor had escaped arrest in Nigeria after his supporters frustrated several attempts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to detain him. He fled to Dubai, where he was arrested in 2010.
At the request of the British government, Ibori was extradited to the United Kingdom (UK), where he was prosecuted based on evidence from the Metropolitan Police and convicted yesterday.
One of the counts Ibori pleaded guilty to, was a $37 million (£23 million) fraud pertaining to the sale of Delta State’s share in V-Mobile when he was governor between May 1999 and May 2007.
The court was told that Ibori came to the UK in the 1980s and worked as a cashier at a Wickes DIY Store in Ruislip, North West London.
The EFCC had arrested Ibori in 2007 while the police in London got a court order to freeze his UK assets of £35 million.
In 2009, a court in Asaba, the Delta State capital, dismissed 170 charges of corruption against him.
The case was reopened in 2010 by the EFCC, but Ibori fled to Dubai before he was extradited to London in 2011.
Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said Ibori’s sentence “sends a strong and important message to those who seek to use Britain as a refuge for their crimes.
“We are committed to rooting out corruption wherever it is undermining development and will help bring its perpetrators like Ibori to justice and return stolen funds to help the world’s poorest.”