No Justice Awokulehin: Day Ibori Rose To His Feet, All Swagger Gone, And Pronounced Own Guilt
When James Ibori stood up in court on Monday, February 26, 2012, and said the word “guilty”, there was no sound of shock or surprise in the court.
But there was a change in atmosphere when it became clear that what had been a legalistic to-and-fro between the prosecutor and the judge, with Ibori’s defence rising only to say they “agreed the amendments”, meant the complete and immediate collapse of James Onafene Ibori.
Some of the Nigerians, who had queued for an hour to get into court, became short tempered and started talking during the proceedings. There were faces with knitted brows and dead-serious demeanours.
Ibori himself looked resigned. He sat slumped in his chair, as one might after a long and tiresome paddle upriver in a canoe, before being taken down to the cells. Unlike on previous occasions, he did not wave to his supporters or smile at them, evidence he was mentally transitioning away from them and from the limelight.
In previous trials of his associates in crime, his wife Theresa Nkoyo Ibori had taken that lonely walk before being sentenced. So had his sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori; one of his mistresses, the boisterous Udoamaka Okoronkwo (nee Onuigbo), and one of his London-based lawyers, Bhadresh Gohil. The court would sentence each of them to at least five years for their part in helping Mr. Ibori to separate the poor people of Delta State from their development resources.
In the past few days, sections of the Nigerian press had reported that a “plea bargain” might have been reached late last week. But if anyone thought Ibori was in for a “soft landing”, prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC immediately dispelled such impressions.
“Mr Ibori lied his way into public office,” she stated, matter-of-factly. He deceived the authorities and the voters. "He was never the legitimate governor and there was effectively a thief in government house. As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta state's wealth and hand out patronage. As the illegitimate recipient of public office he was able to bleed the public purse.”
The prosecution estimates they could recover as much as $250,000,000 from Ibori.
“He personally awarded and signed these inflated contracts to his people, and the profits came directly to himself to fund his lavish lifestyle,” Miss Wass said.
She said the prosecution had overwhelming evidence to prove he had corruptly defrauded Delta State, and that reports in the Nigerian media that the case was based on rumours and gossip were unfounded.
“He siphoned off millions by personally awarding contracts to his people,” she said. “We have evidence he was in control of these funds: documents signed by Mr Ibori, controlling bank accounts and trust funds, which had no explicable source other than corruption.”
But the breakthrough for the prosecution came two weeks earlier when Judge Anthony Pitts accepted the prosecution’s request to admit the evidence not only of his previous convictions in the UK for theft and fraud, but that the prosecution could tell the jury that under the Nigerian constitution he should never have been allowed to be governor.
Ibori, wearing a maroon shirt and dark suit, hunching over to read the charges from paper held up to him by one of his legal representatives, stood in the dock and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to seven of the 14 he was to face this week, and three of the nine he was to face next year in what had been dubbed the “V-Mobile trial”.
This trial was about the corrupt sale of shares worth $37,000,000 in the V-Mobile company to Celtel, which also involved former Akwa Ibom governor Victor Attah and others. He pleaded not guilty to six of the charges relating to the “V-Mobile trial”.
The prosecutor said those charges would remain on file, but that they did not believe it was in the interest of the British public to pursue the trial further.
Outside the court, Ibori’s supporters, none of whom would give their names, remonstrated with journalists, accusing them of bias and prejudice against Ibori.
“He has been cleared of all charges in Nigeria!” one shouted, “It is a conspiracy by the corrupt British government!”
Another, looking shocked and depressed said, “This has come about because of 100% biased journalism.
This is not the James Ibori I know, I think if people knew the real James Ibori they would not think this possible; think of all the development he brought to the state!”
Ibori will be sentenced on April 16, and proceedings to recover his assets will begin in August.
Outside the court DI Paul Whatmore told journalists the money would be coming back to Nigeria. “It is always rewarding for anyone working on a proceeds of corruption case to know that the stolen funds they identify will eventually be returned to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world," he said.
He could not say for certain if the Metropolitan Police would keep a percentage to cover the cost of the investigation. “That’s a matter for discussion, it depends on how much we can recover,” he said.
Full List of the Charges Ibori Pleaded Guilty To:
The prosecution told Judge Pitts that they had submitted an amended indictment for Mr Ibori to re-enter his plea. They then said they would submit a second indictment, dubbed the “V-Mobile trial”, which had been due to begin next year, so that Ibori could enter a plea.
The charges he pleaded guilty to:
1. Conspiracy to commit money laundering: Between the 1st day of May 1999 and the 24th day of March 2003, conspired together with Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori and others to
a) Conceal or disguise property which was, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represented his proceeds of criminal conduct, namely his defrauding of Delta State Nigeria; or
b) Convert or transfer the property or remove it from the jurisdiction, for the purposes of avoiding prosecution for an offence.
2. Money Laundering: between 24th day of March 2003 and the 30th day of May 2007 together with Udoamaka Onuigbo (also known as Okoronkwo), Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie and others, concealed, disguided, converted and or transferred his criminal property, which constituted his benefit from defrauding Delta State, Nigeria.
3. Obtaining property transfer by deception:
On or about the 14th day of February 1999 dishonestly obtained for himself or another a money transfer from SunBank Mortgages PLC in the Sum of £157,000 being a loan by way of mortgage in respect of the property known as Flat 23, 20 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London NW8 by deception, namely by making false representations, among others that:
a) His date of birth was 4 August 1958
b) He was self employed at Diat newspapers, 61 Queen St Jabo Yaba, Lagos Nigeria, established there for 10 years.
c) He had no county court judgements entered against him and
d) He had not failed to keep up with payments on mortgages, rent or loan agreements.
4. Money Laundering: Between the 1st day of April 2005 and the 28th Day of February 2007 together with Theresa Nkoyo Ibori, Bhadresh Gohil and others, concealed disguised, converted and or transferred his criminal property, which constituted his benefit from defrauding Delta State Nigeria, by using a client account of Arlingtons Sharmas Solicitors as the personal account of James and Theresa Ibori.
5. Money laundering: Beteween the 1st day of April and 1st day of December 2007, together with Bhadresh Gohil and others, concealed and disguised, converted and or transferred James Onafene Ibori’s criminal property, which constituted his penefit from defrauding Delta State Nigeria, by attempting to purchase a Challenger Jet aircraft from Bombadier Inc.
6. Money laundering: Between the 24th Day of March 2003 and the 31st day of December 2005, together with Udoamaka Onuigbo (also known as Okoronkwo), and others concealed and disguised and or transferred James Ibori’s criminal property which constituted his benefit from defrauding Delta State Nigeria through the use of corporate vehicles known as the Zircon Trust Ltd.
7. Money laundering: between 1st day of May 2004 and the 2nd Day of April 2008, together with others, concealed and disguised, converted and or transferred James Ibori’s criminal property, which constituted his benefit from defrauding Delta State Nigeria through the use of corporate vehicles known as the Onyx trust, Alantar Ltd and Manapouri Ltd in Guernsey.
Ibori pleaded guilty to three counts from a second indictment, dubbed the “V-Mobile trial” which are as follows:
1. Conspiracy to defraud: Between the 1st Day of September 2005 and the 1st day of January 2007 conspired with Bharash Babulal Gohil, Lambertus de Boer, Daniel Benedict McCann, Victor Attah, David Edevbie, Lobe Ojakovo, Professor Akpan Ekpo and others to defraud states within the Federation of Nogeria namely Delta State and Akwa Ibom state, of sums representing part of the sale price resulting from the sale of shares owned by said states in Vee Networks (Nigeria) Ltd, (Trading as V-Mobile) to Celtel (Nigeria) BV, and held in the names of their respective authorised ministries or agencies the said sums being paid to a company named African Development Finance Ltd or its predecessors under and exclusive Arranger Agreement to a total invoiced value in excess of $37,000,000.
2. Conspiracy to make false instruments: Between the 1st Day of September 2005 and the 1st day of July 2007 conspired with Bharash Babulal Gohil, Lambertus de Boer, Daniel Benedict McCann, Victor Attah, David Edevbie, Lobe Ojakovo, Professor Akpan Ekpo and others to make false instruments, namely letters and other documents which purported to be be made on dates or otherwise in circumstances in which they were not made in relation to alleged services provided to African Development Finance Ltd or its predecessors in relation to the sale of shares owned by said states in Vee Networks (Nigeria) Ltd, (Trading as V-Mobile) to Celtel (Nigeria) BV, with the intention that they or another should use the said letters and documents to induce somebody to accept them as genuine and by reason of so accepting to do, or not to do, some act to his own prejudice or that of any other person.
3. Money Laundering: James Onafene Ibori with Bharash Babulal Gohil, Lambertus de Boer, Daniel Benedict McCann, Victor Attah, David Edevbie, Lobe Ojakovo, Professor Akpan Ekpo and others between the 15th day of April 2006 and the 9th day of September 2009 concealed and disguised converted and or transferred criminal property, which constituted in whole or in part, directly or indirectly his benefit from criminal conduct, through the use of the African Development Finance Ltd or its predecessors as a front to receive and launder sums paid to it under the terms of an exclusive Arranger Agreement up to an invoiced total in excess of $37,000,000 in relation to the sale of shares owned by Delta State and Akwa Ibom state in Vee Networks (Nigeria) LTD to Celtel (Nigeria) BV on or after the 15th April 2006 in particular by making a purported loan in the sum of $11,400,000 from African development Finance Ltd or its predecessors to a company named Brookes Aviation Ltd on or about the 22nd day of June 2006.
b. Making a purported loan in the sum of $3,780,000 from African Development Finance Ltd to a company named FE Samuels on or about the 19th day of September 2006;
c. Making a purported loan in sum of $10,000,000 from the African Development Finance Ltd to a company named Ascot Offshore (Nigeria) Ltd on or about the 18th day of December 2006
d. Allowing the making of a purported loan in the sum of $790,000 from Africa Development Finance Ltd to a company named Clanbrassil Nominees Ltd on or about the 7th day of January 2007.