A UK prosecutor has urged a London court to seize over £100 million ($129 million) from James Ibori, a Nigerian politician and convicted fraudster who served time in a UK prison. Ibori is a former governor of the oil-rich Delta State in Nigeria and was extradited from Dubai to London in 2011, facing charges related to a money laundering scheme.
In 2012, Ibori admitted to ten charges of fraud and money-laundering, resulting in a 13-year prison sentence. The UK celebrated the verdict as a significant victory in the fight against corruption. Ibori’s case is exceptional as it is uncommon for foreign officials involved in money laundering in the UK, a prominent global hub for such activities, to be prosecuted.
Following over ten years of legal battles and court postponements, the efforts to seize funds believed to be the profits of Ibori’s illegal activities seem to be nearing a resolution. Southwark Crown Court’s Judge David Tomlinson has made factual findings related to the money in question. On Thursday, both the prosecution and defence presented their arguments on the calculation of the confiscation amount, based on the judge’s findings. A final and official order is expected to be issued by the judge on Friday or soon after.
Jonathan Kinnear, the lead prosecution counsel, stated that Ibori should be ordered to relinquish £101.5 million. Failure to comply could result in an additional five to ten years in prison.
Ibori, who served half of his sentence before and after the trial, returned to Nigeria in 2017. He was not present at Thursday’s hearing but communicated his intention to appeal the confiscation order via text message to Reuters.
Despite his conviction, Ibori is believed to maintains significant influence in Nigerian politics. The current legitimacy embattled Nigerian leader, President Bola Tinubu, inaugurated in May, has already hosted him twice at the presidential villa, alongside other former governors.
The UK has committed to returning any money confiscated from Ibori to Nigeria. In 2021, it returned £4.2 million seized from Ibori’s ex-wife and sister, who were also convicted for their roles in the money laundering scheme.
IMAGE: Daily Mail