Sources at the Crown Prosecution Services in the UK have debunked reports that appeared today in an online publication claiming that British authorities had dropped money laundering charges against former Governor James Onanefe Ibori of Delta State.
“I’d like to state that Mr. James Ibori remains in detention and that his trial is on course,” said one of our sources. He described as silly any speculation that UK prosecutors had let Mr. Ibori off the hook.
Our CPS sources clarified that what happened was that they decided to drop one count in their multiple count indictment of the former governor who goes by the moniker of “Ogidigbodigbo of Africa.”
One of the sources disclosed that Mr. Ibori’s lawyers had challenged the prosecution’s application but lost.
The CPS affirmed that Ibori’s trial date in February has not changed, adding that the simple procedure of removing a count was a strategic move in preparation of a water-tight prosecution of Mr. Ibori whose accomplices are serving jail sentences of between five and eight years for abetting his extensive money laundering activities during his eight-year term as governor. Mr. Ibori’s incarcerated accomplices include his sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori, his mistress, Udoamaka Okonkwo (nee Onuigbo), and his wife, Theresa Nkoyo-Ibori. In addition, one of Mr. Ibori’s UK-based lawyers, Bhadresh Gohil, was handed a 10-year sentence last April.
Mr. Gohil was earlier sentenced to a 7-year sentence that runs concurrently with his more recent conviction.
“Let me stress that the CPS decided to remove one count of our indictment as it suited us,” one source emphasized. “It’s rather silly to construe that as a move to let Mr. Ibori walk.”
Mr. Ibori's trial is set to resume on February 13, 2012 before Judge Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court. Mr. Ibori and another businessman, Elias Preko, are charged with 14 (now 13) counts related to funds the prosecution asserts were stolen from the treasury of the Delta State government and laundered in the UK.