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Ibori reacts to London judge’s $130m confiscation order 

Ibori reacts to London judge’s $130m confiscation order 

Britain will seek to confiscate 101.5 million pounds ($130 million) from James Ibori, a former Delta State governor who was convicted for abusing his office to get rich and laundered millions in Britain and elsewhere, under a court order issued in London on Friday.

Ibori, who is in Nigeria, said he would appeal against the confiscation order, one of the largest imposed on an individual in recent British legal history.

“The next steps will be to take my fight for justice to the highest courts in the UK,” he said in a statement.

Ibori was governor of oil-producing Delta State from 1999 to 2007 and was extradited from Dubai to Britain in 2011. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering and received a 13-year jail sentence of which he served half, as is standard.

The case was hailed as a landmark in the fight against corruption in Britain, a global money-laundering hub, and in Nigeria, where self-enrichment by the ruling elite has been one of the main factors holding back development for decades.

Judge David Tomlinson, delivering the confiscation order at Southwark Crown Court, said Ibori should pay the sum immediately or face an eight-year jail sentence.

Spokespersons for Nigerian President Bola Tinubu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the Nigerian government would cooperate with the British authorities in enforcing the confiscation order.

Ibori remains well-connected in Nigeria. Tinubu, who took office in May, has hosted him twice at the presidential villa, along with other former governors. Ibori frequently mingles with the ruling elite, and has influence on Delta State politics.

The confiscation process took over a decade after Ibori’s conviction because of lengthy court delays and legal wrangling in London.

“The long and tortuous road to reach this point shows just how tough it is to recover the proceeds of corruption in the UK,” said Helen Taylor, Senior Legal Researcher at campaign group Spotlight on Corruption.

“To ensure justice delayed doesn’t mean justice denied for the Nigerian people, it’s essential that the UK now makes every effort to ensure the speedy return of this stolen loot to benefit the victims of Ibori’s corruption in Delta State,” she said.

Britain has pledged to return any funds recovered from Ibori to Nigeria. In 2021, it returned 4.2 million pounds that had been confiscated from Ibori’s ex-wife and his sister, who also served jail time for helping him.

Ibori’s response

Responding, Ibori, who claimed that he and those close to him were being persecuted, vowed to challenge the order.

He said: “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the “definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.”

“If that is true then I must be going mad because in over a decade since the British Courts have been persecuting myself and those close to me – I kept believing that justice and fairness would eventually triumph.

“In hearing after hearing through the years, despite some of the most logic defying rulings against me- I still believed. Despite clear evidence of police corruption against the main officer in my case (evidence so strong that it caused the lead prosecutor to resign from my case) I still believed. Despite a clear victory in my 2013 Confiscation hearing which left the Judge unable to make an order against me, only to have him rule that the prosecution should start the trial afresh some years later – I still believed.

“However, today’s ruling from Judge Tomlinson is difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. I have to move past the fact that the British Courts found themselves competent to sit in Judgment over contracts awarded in Delta State for contracts that were legitimately awarded and completed. I have come to accept my fate despite the inability of the British prosecutors to show any evidence whatsoever of monies defrauded or indeed missing from Delta State.

“Since 2005 the British Prosecutors have investigated my assets worldwide, they have had a restraint order in place on most of those assets and they are well aware that the total monetary value of those assets is nowhere close to the sums that were the subject of today’s Order. Not withstanding the fact that many of the assets are not and have never been owned by me – it seems that if you are my friend and you allowed me to spend some holiday time in your house, then by this order I now own your home and must ask you to sell it to satisfy the Order.

“The Order made today was to be paid immediately, this was made in the full knowledge that it could take many months to actually realise the sale of many of these assets. There is an 8 year default sentence, which means that if I do not co-operate and pay nothing at all, then the prosecution can apply for the imposition of the default sentence. However as the prosecution already has a Restraint Order over the assets – the situation of my not co-operating or paying will not arise.

“However, an issue arises if my Restrained Assets are sold, and the total realised from the sale does not equal the amount in the Order, then the Prosecution can still apply for part of the default sentence to be applied, but they could only ask for a sliding scale reduction of the 8 years default sentence based on the amounts

that remain outstanding. If such an application were to be made it would be vigorously contested. In the normal course of events any talk of a default sentence would normally be stayed until any outstanding Appeal has been concluded,” he said in a statement.

Ibori added that  the judge appeared to have cast aside any pretence of impartiality, while making the order, which he described as both “wholly unrealistic and unrealisable”.

“He has completely disregarded any arguments, evidence or expert witnesses in my favour. It was apparent during these last 2 days that he has forgotten many of the important elements of the case which is unsurprising as it almost 2 years since the case concluded. It has taken him 2 years to write this Judgment and in the interim he has presided over hundreds of cases, but I refuse to make excuses for him.”

“At this point in time words fail me and so the question for me as I take my case to the Court of Appeal, is, if I continue to believe that I may finally get some Justice is this the definition of madness? I know one thing for sure, that if I do not go to the Court of Appeal to contest this outrageous Order then my people will definitely say that I am a madman!


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