Correction: Saharareporters would like correct the date of the next hearing on Chief Ibori's case as November 13th 2007, our sources in the UK confirmed this earlier today. We apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused our readers.
Earlier today the Criminal Division of the Court Of Appeal in London extended the restraining order against former Governor James Ibori’s worldwide assets till November 13th 2007. At a directions hearing held in-chamber by Justice Thomas by 10:00AM , the judge also set out the procedures for interacting with his assets outside of the UK, which allows James Ibori to spend up a certain amount with permission from the court
Crown Prosecution sources told Saharareporters that the allowance given Ibori to spend some of his monies is procedural rather than a variation of the restraint order, they said it is why today's hearing is regarded as "Directions Hearing"
Saharareporters had reported that today's hearing would determine the date for the proper hearing of the appeal instituted by the Crown Prosecutor Service (CPS). The appeal requested a leave from the British High Court to appeal an October 1 ruling by the Southwark Crown Court that lifted an order freezing Ibori's worldwide assets.
At today's sitting, the appellate court fixed the next hearing of the case for November 13th 2007. The period would enable the Metropolitan Police to gather new evidence against the former Delta State governor whose probe for money laundering has become a global dilemma for Umar Yar'adua's government.
Nigeria’s Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa, has been under fire for secretly issuing a letter to Ibori's lawyers in England. That letter, and a United nations Pass issued to James Ibori which exonerated Ibori of any criminal enrichment while in office, became a tool Ibori’s lawyers used to get him legal reprieve at the Southwark Crown Court.
In a related development, Saharareporters cannot for now confirm if the former governor left for Nigeria last night as he had planned. One source who is close to Ibori’s inner circle told us that the former governor was considering shelving his travel plans because of the fresh tension generated by a controversial order granted by a Federal High Court judge in Benin City.
The judge, Mrs. Gloria Okeke, had granted a blanket order protecting Ibori from arrest or prosecution and barring agents of the Federal Government from investigation the finances of Delta State for the period Ibori was in office.
Justice Okeke’s bizarre order followed an ex-parte motion brought by the Delta State government urging the court to bar anti-corruption investigators from accessing and probing the accounts of the Delta State government between 1999-2007. In addition to Ibori, her order also prohibited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the AG's office from arresting Ibori’s former deputy as well as others who served in Ibori’s government.
Saharareporters investigators found out that Justice Okeke is related to James Ibori's mistress, Udo Amaka Okoronkwo, who was recently arrested in London. Both women are sisters, sharing the same maiden surname of Onuigbo. They are indigenes of Akpu in Orumba South Local Government area of Anambra State. According to our source, Gloria is the elder sister to Udo Amaka.
The EFCC and perhaps the Attorney General's office are expected to seek judicial review of the order on Monday. This follows a strongly worded petition submitted yesterday by five civil society groups protesting the actions of the judge.