Through an application to register and enforce two orders from United Kingdom courts, the US Department of Justice has secured a restraining order against more than $3 million in corruption proceeds located in the United States related to James Onanefe Ibori, the former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.
The application, which was filed under seal on May 16, 2012, in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, seeks to restrain assets belonging to Governor Ibori and Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s former English solicitor, that are proceeds of corruption.
Specifically, it seeks to restrain a mansion in Houston and two Merrill Lynch brokerage accounts. U.S. District Judge Lamberth granted the application and issued a restraining order under seal on May 21, 2012. The department was notified today that its application to unseal the restraining order was granted.
The United States is working with the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service to forfeit these corruption proceeds.
According to the application, Governor Ibori served as the governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, and misappropriated millions of dollars in Delta State funds. He laundered those proceeds through a myriad of shell companies, intermediaries and nominees in several jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, with the help of Gohil.
Although Nigeria’s Constitution prohibits state governors from maintaining foreign bank accounts and serving as directors of private companies, Governor Ibori and his associates accumulated millions of dollars in assets in the United Kingdom and the United States, according to the application.
Governor Ibori was convicted in the United Kingdom of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced by a British court on April 18, 2012, to 13 years in prison. Gohil was also convicted in November 2010 of money laundering and prejudicing a money laundering investigation and was sentenced by a British court to 10 years in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Woo S. Lee and Elizabeth Aloi of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The case was investigated by ICE HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, HSI Asset Identification and Removal Group in Miami and HSI Attaché London.