Ibori Bags 13 Years Jail Term in UK

THISDAY Newspaper- Agha Ibiam

At last, former governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, who has been standing trial for corruption and money laundering charges in a UK court, with case number T20117192, has now been jailed for 13 years, having pleaded guilty to a 10-count charge last February.

Handing down the judgment, Judge Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court 9, London, said for the fact that Ibori had pleaded guilty to the 10-count charge of fraud, money laundering and corruption put at about $250 million, his sentence would be reduced to 13 years as against 24 years he would have served.

“Because of the courage Ibori had and pleaded guilty, which has saved the court some resources and saved British tax payers’ money, I will give him 50 per cent discount from the number of years he will serve in prison. You are to serve half of that, and from that half it will be further reduced to 625 days between Dubai and UK detention,” Pitts told the court.

THISDAY gathered from the officer in charge of the case, DC John McDonald, and Detective Constable in charge of the V-Mobile case, Mattew Jones, that ordinarily Ibori would have been sentenced to 24 years imprisonment, but because of the bargain, the trial judge decided to sentence him to 13 years.

The duo further clarified that in total, Ibori would spend about four to five years in prison considering the fact that he had spent about two years in Dubai and in UK detention.

They explained that before the sentence would be completed, the court would have recovered all the looted money and confiscated his property in the UK before handing him over to the UK Boarder Agency (UKBA) for deportation to Nigeria.

Ibori’s trial cost the UK government about £40,000 a week and therefore efforts must be made to recover everything, recoup the money spent on trial before repatriating the rest to the Nigerian government.

THISDAY further gathered that Ibori will spend his first night at Wandsworth prison before deciding where he would spend the rest of the sentence. “But it will not be an easy imprisonment,” an officer said.

During the trial, former Aston Villa footballer, John Fashanu, while giving evidence pleaded with the court to consider Ibori on the ground that he developed sport facilities in the state during his tenure as governor of Delta State, adding that some popular footballers such as J.J Okocha are from his state.

But the trial judge, it was gathered, simply told the defence counsel that Ibori was held on account of corruption.

After the ruling, Ibori’s supporters, who were present at the court, could not utter a word as they were confused as to the number of years he will serve, while those in favour of the ruling jubilated in front of a filming CNN, BBC and other cameras mounted to interview some detectives who handled the case from investigation to its ruling Tuesday.

The Metropolitan Police were at alert to avert any unguided behaviour from any quarters.

Hearing actually started at 11.00am at Southwark Crown Court 9, and Fashanu was called to give character evidence.
Hearing was adjourned till 2.30pm.

Due to Monday's unruly behaviour of some Ibori’s sympathisers, entrance into the court room was restricted, as 16 people were allowed in, especially select members of Ibori’s family and journalists who work for UK-based media.

A police sergeant, who told people who had blocked the entrance into the room, said: "I am only here to make sure there is no breach of peace."

Demonstrators were seen outside the court premises with placards with the inscription "Ibori down."

Reacting, National Ijaw and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, described the conviction of Ibori as a “welcome development” and a vindication of his insistence that the ex-governor was corrupt in the handling of the huge financial resources of the state.

He however noted that it was “sad and unfortunate” that a former governor of one of Nigeria’s major oil states would suffer “this kind of disastrous situation”.

Also reacting, the Save Nigeria Group spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, lamented that the same Ibori, who was given a clean bill on corruption by a Nigerian Court, has been convicted for similar offences abroad.

"We cannot continue to run a country where the rich get away with crimes against humanity.

In December 2009, a Nigerian judge, Justice Marcel Awokulehin, had dismissed the 170-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Ibori on the ground that a prima facie case was not established against him.

Three years later, he was made to face the same charges in the UK. When the accused found that he could not manipulate the British criminal justice system he pleaded guilty to the charges.

The sentencing Tuesday thus draws the curtain on the prolonged investigation on the corrupt activities of the former Delta State governor.

Earlier, his wife, Theresa; sister, Mrs Christine Ibori-Ibie; mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo; and lawyer, Bahdresh Gohil, had been convicted for money laundering offences. They are already serving their jail terms


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