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Ibori to Celebrate 50th Birthday Over Two Days in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa

August 7, 2008
SaharaReporters, New York

Ignoring their money-laundering charges in Nigeria, former governors James Ibori and Lucky Igbinedion are in South Africa, where they plan to celebrate Ibori's 50th birthday in secret.  They will be joined by Governor Bukola Saraki.  As earlier reported by SaharaReporters, Ibori left Nigeria earlier this week, traveling through Ghana to South Africa.

Ibori issued a press statement through a press aide, Tony Elumenor, asking his supporters to celebrate his birthday in low-key fashion.  Our sources said, however, that a large contingent of his friends from Nigeria and other countries are for a lavish, two-day event in South Africa.  One bash is scheduled for Johannesburg's Michelangelo Luxury Hotel in Johannesburg, and another the following day in Cape Town at The Table Bay Hotel located at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

The governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki is expected to chair the birthday event traveling from France to South Africa.  About 100 people are flying in for the celebration.  Sources told SaharaReporters that James Ibori, trying to avoid media attention, did not ask his "boys" to come.  Instead, that bandwagon will party on Sunday at the newly built home of Lulu Enobaifo, in Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos.

 Apart from Ibori and Igbinedion, other former governors facing money-laundering charges are also traveling extensively to dissipate their loot.  Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia State and the publisher of the SUN news tabloid is currently in his Potomac home in Rockville, Maryland, near Washington DC.  Also, on the road is Senator Saminu Turaki, the former governor of Jigawa State, who is facing money-laundering charges at an Abuja High Court.  He is currently in Singapore, where he maintains a palatial home.

As Saharareporters reported earlier, the new EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has entered into secret agreements to scuttle the cases against the former governors, who made it possible for her to get the job of the EFCC chairperson.
Said an EFCC investigator who claims to be privy to the plan: "The case of James Ibori would be sabotaged at different levels in due course".

But British prosecutors say they will be going ahead with the trial of three women who assisted James Ibori to launder monies looted from the treasury of Delta State. The women include his wife, Theresa Nkoyo, his former private assistant, Bimpe Pogoson, and his sister, Christie Ibie-Ibori. 

A fourth woman, Mrs. Udoamaka Okoronkwo, has yet to return to the UK to be arraigned with the others since she was granted bail by a Federal High Court along with Ibori in February. Only this week, prosecutors at the Metropolitan Police were at the Crown Court in London to join Theresa Ibori with Bimpe Pogoson and Christie Ibie-Ibori.  The application will be heard for two days in October while the trial is expected later this year.

 Ibori is reportedly worried about the charges against his female associates in the UK and has been relying on his high priced lawyers and Nigeria's Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa to render his UK case ineffective.

The main weapon of Ibori’s lawyers’ is the continued refusal of Nigeria's Attorney General, Aondoakaa, to sign off on the Mutual legal Agreement Treaty (MLATs) that could back most of the evidence to be used in the case.  For instance, the prosecution was shocked at the latest hearing, at the Crown Court, as they were presented with a letter written by Aondoakaa to the effect that the Metropolitan police was required to return all documents earlier provided to them by the EFCC. 

Metropolitan Police CPS prosecutors said they were not aware of such letter from Mr. Aondoakaa. Also, Ibori has used his influence with the Yar'adua government to get two key witnesses and top EFCC police investigators –Ibrahim Lamorde and Yahaya Bello—removed from the EFCC.

The respected former Head of the Governance Section of the EFCC and another potential witness, Ibrahim Magu, was arrested last Monday and has languished in police detention since then without being charged for any known offense. Though the CPS prosecutors did not disclose the legal strategy to counter Ibori's lawyers in the ensuing trial, they said they were confident they have a good case against the three women.

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