Former Nigerian oil governor jailed in UK for 13 years
The former governor of one of Nigeria’s richest oil-producing states was jailed for 13 years in the UK today after admitting fraud totalling nearly £50 million.
Before his arrest James Ibori was in the process of buying a $20m (€15.3m) jet aircraft, and had already acquired several large homes and a number of luxury cars, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said after the sentencing hearing.
The CPS vowed to find the fraudster’s illegally obtained assets in a bid to recover some of the money, which according to the judge could total well over the £50m (€60.7m) figure.
“In the light of other matters, perhaps that is a ludicrously low figure and the figure may be in excess of £200m (€242m), it is difficult to tell,” Judge Pitts told Southwark Crown Court in London.
“The confiscation proceedings may shed some further light on the enormity of the sums involved.”
Ibori pleaded guilty earlier this year to a series of charges linked to the theft of money from the Delta state and fraud involving state-owned shares in a mobile phone firm.
Ibori, whose address in England was given as Primrose Hill in north London, was previously a cashier in a DIY store in Ruislip, west London, before he moved to Nigeria and worked his way up the ranks to become a state governor in 1999.
After the hearing, Sue Patten, head of the CPS central fraud group, said: “During his two terms as governor of Delta state, James Ibori deliberately and systematically defrauded the people whose interests he had been elected to represent.
“The sums involved in the offences to which Ibori has pleaded guilty amount to approximately £50m (€60.7m), acquired at the expense of the some of the poorest people in the world.
“Combined sentences of 43 years imprisonment have now been imposed on Ibori and those convicted for assisting him, including his sister, his mistress, his wife, his lawyer and others.
“But the work of the CPS continues. The next step will be to enable the courts to make a confiscation order in respect of Ibori’s illegal profits.
“Ibori enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, including several substantial properties, a Bombardier Challenger jet aeroplane costing $20m (€15.3m) he was in the process of buying and several vehicles including a Jaguar, a Mercedes Maybach and a Bentley, all funded from the proceeds of his crimes against the people of Nigeria.
“These are just a number of assets that will be considered as part of confiscation proceedings.
“Three million pounds has already been clawed back from his co-defendants and work continues to realise assets to pay towards the confiscation orders imposed on them.”
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “James Ibori’s sentence sends a strong and important message to those who seek to use Britain as a refuge for their crimes.
“Corruption is a cancer in developing countries and the coalition Government has a zero-tolerance approach to it.
“We are committed to rooting out corruption wherever it is undermining development, and will help bring its perpetrators like Ibori to justice and return stolen funds to help the world’s poorest.”
Ibori, whose age was given as either 50 or 54 during the sentencing, was governor of the state, said to be one of the richest oil producing regions in Nigeria, between May 1999 and May 2007.
As governor, he was racking up credit card bills of $200,000 (€153,000) per month on a luxury lifestyle, including running a fleet of armoured Range Rovers.
His wife Theresa Ibori, sister Christine Ibori-Idie, mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo and London-based solicitor Bhadresh Gohil have already been convicted of money-laundering.
Ibori was extradited from Dubai to the UK in April last year.
The court heard from former England footballer John Fashanu, who is ambassador for the federal government of Nigeria for sports and tourism.
Fashanu, who said he has known Ibori for more than 20 years, spoke of Ibori’s achievements in creating sporting facilities in Delta state.
Ibori admitted one count of conspiracy to launder money, five of money-laundering and one of obtaining a property transfer by deception over the theft of more than €30.3m while he was governor of the region.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money-laundering linked to a $37m (€28.4m) share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company V Mobile.