28th September, 2023
A coalition of more than 50 British and Nigerian civil society groups have urged the British government to return funds confiscated from James Ibori, the former governor of Delta state.
In a letter to Britain home secretary Suella Braverman and foreign secretary James Cleverly, the group urged a swift and transparent return of the money to benefit ordinary Nigerians.
The group, in a letter made available by a member of the coalition, Spotlight Corruption, said the long-delayed confiscation process had undermined the strong anti-corruption message sent by Ibori’s conviction over a decade ago.
“The years of disruption and delay in recovering and returning these stolen assets means this message has so far rung hollow for the Nigerian people.”
Part of the letter read:
“In July 2023, the Southwark Crown Court ordered the confiscation of more than £101 million from Ibori and more than £28 million from his former solicitor and co-defendant Bhadresh Gohil. … By prosecuting Ibori and his close associates and pursuing their ill-gotten gains, the UK government sent a strong signal that Britain will not tolerate impunity for corruption or harbour its proceeds.
“But the years of disruption and delay in recovering and returning these stolen assets means this message has so far rung hollow for the Nigerian people. It was more than a decade ago that Ibori and his associates were convicted in the UK of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the Nigerian state and its people. Yet so far, only £4.2 million – less than 3% of the total confiscated from Ibori and his associates – has actually been returned to Nigeria. …
“We therefore urge the UK government to make every effort to ensure the prompt, transparent and accountable return of the remaining Ibori loot to the people of Delta State.”
Ibori pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering and was handed a 13-year jail sentence, of which he served about half before going home.
The politician remains influential in Nigeria, with control over his state of Delta and friendship with President Bola Tinubu.
The NGOs, which also included Transparency International and Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, said funds confiscated from him should go to projects benefitting the people of Delta State and implementation should be subject to civil society monitoring.
Efforts by British prosecutors to confiscate Ibori’s assets began in 2013 but have run into repeated obstacles and delays in the London courts.
In July, a judge ordered the confiscation of 101.5 million pounds ($123.9 million) from him, one of the biggest orders under Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 since it came into force.
He has applied for leave to appeal against the order and his application is at the early stages of the appeal process.
Read the full letter here: Ibori-asset-return-letter-27.09.2023