West and North Africa

Nigerian state governor defrauded his state out of £157million may not have to pay back a penny

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  • James Ibori defrauded £157m from west African nation’s oil rich Delta State
  • He spent millions on luxury mansions, private jet, fleet of cars and hotel trips
  • He admitted conspiracy to launder funds during his eight-year governorship
  • The 51-year-old is accused of personally pocketing £50million of the money
  • But his defence lawyer claims he did not make a single penny from the fraud
  • Full confiscation order under Proceeds of Crime Act on Friday will determine how much he will be ordered to repay
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By Emma Glanfield

A former Wickes cashier who became a Nigerian state governor and defrauded £157million of public funds to live a lavish lifestyle may not have to pay a single penny back.

James Ibori, 51, is said to have personally pocketed £50million of cash stolen from the west African nation’s oil-rich Delta State during his eight-year tenure.

The former £5,000-a-year Wickes cashier blew millions on luxury homes, a £12.6million private jet, fees at some of the UK’s most expensive boarding schools for his children, first-class travel and exclusive hotels.
He owned a £600,000 fleet of armoured Range Rovers, a £120,000 Bentley and a £340,000 Mercedes Maybach that was shipped direct to his £3.2million mansion in Johannesburg.

Described as one of Nigeria’s most influential and wealthy politicians, Ibori rigged lucrative state contracts with the help of his wife, mistress, sister, and an inner circle of corrupt officials and lifted money straight out of state funds.

He also sold £23million of state-owned shares in telecoms company Vee Mobile to fund a lavish lifestyle, including £125,000 monthly credit card bills while his people languished in poverty.

Ibori, who now lives in Hampstead, north west London, was sentenced to 13 years behind bars in April 2012 after admitting a raft of fraud and money laundering offences.

He is due to face a confiscation hearing at Southwark Crown Court but it was claimed today that he did not make a single penny from the £157million fraud.

Applying to have confiscation proceedings thrown out, Ivan Krolick, defending, said Ibori’s pleas of guilt were not an admission that he personally profited from the scam.
The court heard if the full confiscation hearing does go ahead under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the fraudster may only be ordered to pay back £330,000.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC said: ‘The handling of the money itself gave rise to the crime so the benefit of the crime in the context of this case would be the same thing.

‘It gives rise to the proceeds of crime.

‘The Crown has been taken wholly by surprise that Mr Krolick should address the court and say that there was no evidence in effect that Mr Ibori benefited’.

Nigerian-born Ibori moved to the UK in the 1980s where he married his wife, Theresa, and worked as a cashier at Wickes in Ruislip, Middlesex.

In 1990 the pair were convicted of stealing goods from the store and fined £300. A year later Ibori was fined £100 for handling a stolen credit card before he moved back to his homeland.
Ibori was elected as governor of Delta State in 1999 after tricking his way into power by hiding details of his previous convictions in the UK for theft and changing his age.

In 2003, he was re-elected as governor for another four year term, after failing to disclose his previous convictions and financial status.
During that time he systematically stole funds from the public purse, secreting them in bank accounts across the world.

His methods included the inflation of State contracts, kickbacks and the transfer of cash from the State accounts by unscrupulous employees in his inner circle.

In one instance he rigged the tendering process for state contracts in cahoots with his mistress Udoumaka Okoronkwo, who would be due to face confiscation proceedings alongside Ibori.

The couple used Okoronkwo’s companies Sagicon, Rivbbed and Saagaris – the latter of which their four-month old love-child was named as a director of – to ‘bid’ for inflated deals to provide items to the state including china and vehicles.

The money was then channelled out of Nigeria before it was laundered through a series of off-shore trusts and companies.

Ibori was also helped to steal the cash by his wife Theresa, sister Christine Ibori-Ibie, and a series of corrupt professionals – UK London based lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, fiduciary agent Daniel Benedict McCann and corporate financier, Lambertus De Boer.
The former state governor was arrested by officers from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria in December 2007.

Two years later at a court in Ibori’s hometown in Asaba, 170 charges of corruption were dismissed on the basis that there was no clear evidence to convict.

The case was reopened in April 2010 by the EFCC before Ibori fled to Dubai. He was finally extradited back to the UK in April 2011.

Ibori admitted ten offences relating to conspiracy to launder funds from Delta State, substantive counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception and fraud.

He was excused from attending today’s hearing and Judge Anthony Pitts is expected to rule on Friday whether he will face a full confiscation hearing.
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