A Federal High court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday granted an interim order for the forfeiture of the sum of $15 million being bribe money former governor of Delta State, James Ibori allegedly offered to former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu.
The court, presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, also ordered the EFCC to publish the interim forfeiture order in a national newspaper to enable anyone who is interested in the money to come before the court within 14 days and show cause why the final order of forfeiture should not be made in favour of the Federal Government.
The orders made by the court was sequel to an exparte motion brought by the government pursuant to section 17(1), (2), (3) and (4) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud related activities Act number 14 of 2006.
The Federal Government, represented by Rotimi Jacobs, in the motion argued that the cash in the sum of $15 million was received by the officers of the anti-graft agency from an undisclosed agent of the former Delta state governor in 2007 as a bribe to compromise their investigation.
Mr Jacobs said that the Commission deposited the said cash into the strong room number 1 of the Central Bank of Nigeria on 26th April, 2007 and that Mr Ibori had since denied giving the bribe to the EFCC or any of its officers.
He also stated that the money had since remained unclaimed since April 2007 till date and had remained dormant in the apex bank’s strong room.
The Federal Government in an affidavit deposed to one Bello Yahaya, a police officer attached to the EFCC stated that the money, if left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the apex bank’s strong room since April, 2007, may eventually be destroyed, defaced, mutilated and become useless.
The Federal Government further argued that it is in the interest of justice to, in the interim, make an order of forfeiture to it and allow a publication to be made in a chosen national newspaper to alert any interested member of the public to come out within 14 days to show their interest, failure to which the court will make an order of final forfeiture in government’s favour.
Ibori forfeits $3 million to US
Meanwhile a United States (U.S.) court on Monday seized asset worth $3 million belonging to former Delta State governor, James Ibori.
The seizure was announced through a statement by an Assistant Attorney General at the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Lanny Breuer; and a Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton.
The asset, believed to be proceeds of corruption, seized from Mr Ibori are a mansion in Houston and two Merrill Lynch brokerage accounts. The case is part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
“Instead of working to benefit the people of the Nigerian Delta, Governor Ibori pilfered state funds and accumulated immense wealth in the process,” Mr Breuer said.
“He conspired with Mr. Gohil (his British Lawyer) to funnel millions of dollars in corruption proceeds out of Nigeria and into bank accounts and assets maintained in the names of shell companies and nominees. “
The U.S. District court of Columbia approved the seizure on May 16, 2012, following an application from a UK court.
The ex-governor is already serving a 13-year jail term in the UK after he was convicted for money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.
Mr. Gohil was also convicted, in November 2010, of money laundering and prejudicing a money laundering investigation; and was sentenced by a UK court to 10 years in prison.
Mr. Morton, the ICE director descried Mr. Ibori’s case as “a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the U.S. financial system.”
He said his agency will collaborate with other US authorities to deny these corrupt public officials “the satisfaction of their illegal earnings.”
The statement also called on members of the public, anywhere in the world, to report any public official suspected of keeping stolen funds in the U.S.
“Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through institutions in the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to email@example.com,” it stated.