‘Ibori Has No Hidden Assets In Oando’

James IboriIndigenous oil firm, Oando Plc, has denied an allegation by a British prosecutor that convicted former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori has hidden assets in the company.

Oando said the shares of the company held by the ex-governor were insignificant and denied helping Mr. Ibori to launder money.

A Southwark Crown Court on Monday heard from a prosecutor – Sasha Wass – that the ex-governor “asserted ownership of a large part” of Oando, Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil firm.

“The Crown will assert that Oando is a company where Ibori has hidden assets”, Wass said without giving further details.

But the company’s Corporate Communications Manager, Alero Balogun, said Oando is a publicly traded one, therefore, management doesn’t control transactions on the floor of the stock exchange.

She said: “We state categorically that Mr. James Ibori does not own ‘a large part of Oando’ and that this statement is incorrect and misleading. Oando is a publicly traded company listed on the Nigerian and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges and does not and cannot control the trading in its securities on the floor of the respective exchanges.

“Based on our current shareholding register, Mr. James Ibori’s shareholding stands at 443 shares out of a total issued and paid up share capital of 6.8 billion ordinary shares, which is clearly insignificant, and cannot be considered as ‘a large part of Oando.”

Oando also stated that “it does accept that sometime in 2004, in the normal course of its business, it sold some of its foreign exchange earnings for Naira and the recipient of the US Dollars was a company which has now turned out to be one controlled by James Ibori. At the time of the transaction, this information was unknown to Oando. The total amount was US$2.7 million made in three separate transactions over a period of about seven months. This amount was insignificant considering the company’s turnover of approximately US$800million in 2004.

“The above constitutes the only transactions between Oando and any company controlled by Mr. Ibori. Consequently, Oando cannot be described as a company where James Ibori has hidden assets as a result of these foreign exchange transactions.”

Mr. Ibori, who was governor of Delta State from 1999 to 2007 fled Nigeria in 2010 in a frantic bid to escape justice but was later arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from where he was extradited to the UK and is currently serving a 13 year jail term after he pleaded guilty in February 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering worth 50 million pounds ($79 million).