13th December, 2010
The Dubai Court of Cassation this morning ordered the extradition of James OnanefeÂ Ibori, former governor of the Nigeriaâ€™s Delta state, to the United Kingdom
MrÂ Ibori, who ruled the oil rich state for eight years, was detained after anÂ Interpol arrest request was filed by the Metropolitan Police in London, asking forÂ his extradition.
In the UK, Ibori will be facing money laundering and fraud charges.
His collaborators, his lawyer and first wife, Nkoyo have already been convicted overÂ the crimes and jailed.
Ibori was declared a wanted man by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,Â when he escapedÂ from Nigeria to Dubai, after playing some deadly hide and seek withÂ agents of the commission, especially his hometown of Oghara.
The former governorÂ is accused of stealing funds worth $290m (Â£196m) by the EFCC.
Ibori has for years denied corruption allegations against him in Nigeria and is alsoÂ wanted by the Metropolitan police in the UK for money laundering charges.
In 2007, a UK court froze assetsÂ belonging to him worth Â£21m, though he alreadyÂ escaped from the UK when his assets were seized.
Ibori was first arrested and arraigned by the EFCC in Nigeria in December 2007.
Two years later, a court in Asaba cleared him of 170 charges of corruption, sayingÂ there was no clear evidence to convict him.
On arrival in Dubai, he walked straight into the trap set by the Metroplitan PoliceÂ in the UK which began a protracted extradition proceedings against him , after hisÂ initial arrest in a Dubai hotel on 12 May.
On 17 October, the Dubai court of First Instance ruled thatÂ that he should beÂ Â extradited to Britain to face the charge of money laundering. But Ibori appealed.Â Judgement against him was delivered today.
His extradition will trigger off his trial on money laundering and fraud charges.Â And he has a lot to worry about as almost all his associates and his lawyer haveÂ been convicted. The latest wasÂ BhadreshÂ Gohil, his London-based lawyer, whoÂ entered aÂ guilty plea at the opening of a new trialÂ involving the theft ofÂ V-Mobile shares in Nigeria.It was theÂ second Ibori-related case for Gohil thisÂ Â year. ThreeÂ weeks ago, the Southwark Court convicted the lawyer on anotherÂ Â money-laundering charge, in a trial that also involved Iboriâ€™s wife, Theresa NkoyoÂ Â Ibori.
Mrs. Ibori was also convicted on 22 November by a Southwark Crown Court and isÂ currently serving a five-year sentenceÂ in a London prison. The court deferred Mr.Â Gohilâ€™s sentencing until the conclusionÂ of the trial.
In a previous trial, a UK court also jailed Iboriâ€™s sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie,Â and his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo-Onuigbo, for corruption charges.
A London-based legal expert had said that, in pleading guilty to the freshÂ eight-count charge, Mr. Gohil may have signalled that he could not wriggle outÂ ofÂ the water-tight case that the UK Crown Prosecutor has against him and Ibori.
â€œMr. Gohilâ€™s guilty plea is going to make it tougher, if not impossible, for Mr.Â Ibori to fend off the British governmentâ€™s request for his extradition from Dubai toÂ Â face numerous money laundering charges in London,â€ the expert had added.
Although the trial was expected to last for three weeks, Mr. Gohil told the courtÂ Â that he wanted to plead guilty. His motion for a guilty plea was accepted andÂ Â recorded.
Mr. Bhadresh Gohil joins the rare company of the fewÂ UK lawyers to be convicted forÂ money laundering. Southwark Crown Court judge, Christopher Hardy, who once referredÂ to Gohil as theÂ â€œpredicate offenderâ€ alongside Mr. Ibori. Charged with Gohil wereÂ Â Lambertus De Boer and Daniel McCann. TheyÂ pleadedÂ not guilty. British prosecutorsÂ accused Gohil of participating in the laundering ofÂ funds realized from the sale ofÂ V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of DeltaÂ and Akwa Ibom. Other NigerianÂ officials accused in the scam are currently at large. They includeÂ Mr. Ibori,Â former Governor Victor Obong Attah of Akwa Ibom, David Edevbie, a formerÂ PrincipalÂ Secretary to Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, Love Ojakovo, a former commissioner ofÂ finance toÂ Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.
The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the saleÂ Â of V-Mobile telecoms shares by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. The accused menÂ reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8Â Â million realized from the sale of the shares.
Prosecutors allege that a company named â€œAfrica Development Finance Companyâ€ was theÂ Â major conduit used to steal the funds. In an instance cited in the case summary,Â prosecutors state that an $11 million loanÂ was purportedly granted to an aviationÂ company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasingÂ a jet from Canada; $10 million wasÂ given to â€œAscot Offshore Nigeria Limited,â€ theÂ company that Ibori used to purchaseÂ Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted toÂ another fake firm â€œAfrica DevelopmentÂ Co.â€ and an offshore nominee firm.
The charges of forgery concern Mr. De Boer and McCann. They are accused of violatingÂ Â the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents betweenÂ Â Delta State and Africa Finance Ltd., and also between Delta and African DevelopmentÂ Â Company. They are also accused of creating a false account that used both menâ€™sÂ Â names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature ofÂ thetransactions.
During his term and political career, between 1999 and 2007,Â Mr Ibori was one ofÂ the most vocal advocates for resource nationalisation in Nigeria. His critics nowÂ believed that he used the campaign as a faÃ§ade to personally enrich himself with theÂ state resources.