(BREAKING NEWS) Chief James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State and Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was standing trial for corruption and multiple frauds has been jailed for 13 years by a United Kingdom Court sitting in Southwark, London.
In his ruling, Judge Anthony Pitt of London Southwark Court said that Ibori’s sentencing was not the end of matter, stressing that his property will still be confiscated through another legal process and consequences may arise if there is problem with that.
He said: “If he had fought the case, he would be looking at 24 years but will get a discount for pleading guilty,” Pitts said.
He therefore sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
Shortly after the procedure started, Ibori’s counsel, Nicholas Purnell blamed Ibori’s ex-lawyer Gohil & former Governor Victor Attah for the V-Mobile fraud, saying they were architects of the scam.
Citing a letter from British Airways thanking former Governor Ibori for restoring direct flight from Nigeria to the UK, Lawyer Purnell said the former governor had played a part in supporting United Kingdom industry even before he was elected.
In a bid to secure lenient sentence for the ex-governor, the lawyer credited him with great achievements in Nigeria, saying that his client should be considered based on every development he brought to Nigeria, from banking reforms, to peace in the Niger delta.
He however begged the trial Judge to also consider Chief James Ibori’s children as both of their parents were in the United Kingdom prison custody.
In his spirited efforts, Ibori’s lawyer called on Fashanu, an ex-footballer and close pal to the accused person, as witness for Ibori, to talk about the influence of the Oghara stadium on the youth of Delta, and in his testimony, John Fashanu claimed Ibori built the first shooting range in Nigeria.
Fashanu noted that the former governor achieved a lot in sports, and was instrumental to the end of militancy in the state.
Earlier on Monday, Ibori’s Counsel grasped at straws and floundered so much, even the judge was left exasperated.
The lawyer told the judge he intended to pass on details of Ibori’s accomplishments in Delta State in full, including a short video documenting the former governor’s “accomplishments.”
Purnell praised Ibori as a man who had reformed the public procurement system in Delta State, as well as promoted accountability and transparency, but lamented that the former governor fell prey to the corruption that plagues the state.
He said Ibori had made two promises to the people who elected him: to get more of a fair distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth to the states that produce it—which he said Ibori accomplished—and to spend more on infrastructure.
“There is no debate that in his controversial career, it has been publicly recognised that he revolutionised the infrastructure of Delta State,” Purnell said.
He described Ibori as a “pioneer in democracy,” but stated, “Everything that he has done is jeopardised by this (guilty) plea.”
The lawyer also credited Mr Ibori with having been instrumental in ending the violence that came out of the Ijaw-Itsekiri “war” of the late 1990s, pointing out that Mr Ibori had been credited by the US as the “only one with a credible plan for peace.”
Hitting another stride, Mr. Purnell began to spread the blame for Ibori’s crimes, his principal target being another lawyer of the former governor, Bhadresh Gohil. “There is an extent to which Ibori’s weaknesses and failings were supported by others and tutored by others, professional people in this jurisdiction set out a plan to people in foreign jurisdictions to steal money… at question is that if this is a James Ibori plan.”
He then blamed the government for Ibori’s false passport issued to him in the mid-1990s, saying the false date of birth was a mistake and a common occurrence as there was no reliable system of birth certification in place at the time.
Ibori, he said, never intended to use the passport for fraud, but had continued with the wrong date of birth in his passport because he had a visa to travel to the UK in that passport. Soon after, he had married Theresa Ibori and their marriage certificate bore that date of birth. He said that Mr Ibori has admitted that his offence was to refuse to declare the two offences of theft and fraud committed in the UK at the point he was sworn in as governor.
And Ibori, Mr Purnell said, never planned to become governor dishonestly and use that position to enrich himself, as the prosecution had alleged. “There was no question in 1996 that he would be able to be a governor, Sani Abacha was in charge,” and there was no indication that [Abacha] would give up power. It was only after Mr Abacha died suddenly in 1998 that democracy could be returned.
Mr. Purnell then blamed anyone looking at Ibori’s corrupt trail for having bad eyes. During the trial, Ibori had admitted that he defrauded the state in respect of inflating contracts, particularly with reference to a running track the prosecution said he had inflated in order to split the difference with his mistress.
Also in his closing remarks on Monday, UK Prosecutor, QC Sasha weils indicted Ibori, stressing that he systematically and deliberately defrauded his people during his tenure as governor of Delta State of Nigeria.
Mr. Weils who said that Mr. Ibori who was jailed in 1991 and 1992 in London committed too many frauds totaling £50 million to maintain his lavish lifestyle also noted that the accused person had violated the Nigerian constitution Section 182 and Section 181(1) when he contested the governorship election less than 10years after he was jailed in the United Kingdom.
It would be recalled that Ibori’s wife, Theresa; his sister, Christine; his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo; and his London solicitor, Bhadresh Gohil; had been convicted in London for involvement in money-laundering.
But efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to try Ibori for the same charge of money laundering in Nigeria has not been successful.
The EFCC had first arraigned the ex-governor alongside some other accused persons before Justice Mohammed Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Kaduna on a 103-count charge in December 2007.