A source within the Crown Prosecutors Office in the United Kingdom has told SaharaReporters that British prosecutors who are asking a UK court to order the full confiscation of former Governor James Ibori’s ill-gotten assets opted to provide further evidence in order to ensure that Mr. Ibori’s hidden assets are included in the final ruling.
“We absolutely have proof that Mr. Ibori is hiding some assets,” said the source, adding, “and we believe he should not be allowed to get away with it.”
Yesterday, Judge Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court granted a request by UK prosecutors to provide more detailed evidence of Mr. Ibori’s assets by allowing the case to start afresh. But as soon as the order was granted, former Governor Ibori’s lawyers and his propaganda machine went to town claiming a victory. But a London-based legal analyst who has monitored the case told SaharaReporters that the judge’s ruling “cannot in any way be construed as a victory for the jailed governor.”
In fact, the source added that the ruling “amounts to a jeopardy for Ibori’s lawyers.” He explained: “The defense lawyers had hoped for a ruling based on the trajectory of their defense, which was that Mr. Ibori doesn’t have to appear in court and that the court should not use his admittance of guilt as a basis for the confiscation hearing. However, if new evidence is presented by the Crown prosecution, Ibori will either have to take to the witness dock to refute the evidence or allow the evidence to be admitted unchallenged. That’s a potentially big blow to his case.”
The analyst remarked: “If Ibori refuses to show up in court, the new evidence becomes admissible without challenge. That further complicates his case because the Crown [prosecutors] could then further allege that he lied to the court. That could allow them to demand additional jail time for him. Such an outcome could also decimate his goodwill with the prison authorities with regard to ‘good conduct’ that could have mitigated his prison term.”
Our other source with the Crown Prosecution disclosed that the London Metropolitan police would likely introduce new witnesses in the case to solidify the case against Mr. Ibori, who reportedly stole more than $250 million from the coffers of Delta State during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Since the asset confiscation hearing began, Mr. Ibori and his lawyers have been spinning tales through some Nigerian newspapers and blogs claiming that the case was falling apart. But the source at the Crown Prosecutors Office told SaharaReporters that his office was not perturbed by the former governor’s propaganda games. “No court rules on a case based on what was reported in the papers or on websites,” he said. He added: “There was the same pattern [of propaganda] during the trial of [Mr. Ibori’s] sister and former wife. You do know how that trial ended, don’t you? It was a total disaster for the defendants.”
Judge Pitts has now December 2, 2013 for the new preliminary hearing. The full confiscation hearing will commence on December 16, 2013.
Mr. Ibori, who is serving a 13-year jail term at the Long Lartin maximum security prison, avoided appearing in court during the first confiscation hearing. But the legal analyst told SaharaReporters that the former governor’s strategy of staying out of sight might not work in the renewed trial. “That opportunity may be gone, especially if the prosecutors bring new evidence before the court,” he said.
Mr. Ibori and several of his cronies, including his cousin and current governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Deputy Governor Amos Agbe Utuama, are believed to have collaborated in the systemic looting of Delta State. UK prosecutors have uncovered how the looters laundered their stolen assets in the UK and US and through several tax havens around the world.