Ibori pleads guilty to money laundering charges

Channels Television  
Updated February 27, 2012

The former governor of Delta state, James Onanefe Ibori on Monday entered a guilty plea before a Southwark Crown Court in London where he was undergoing trial on fraud and money laundering charges.

Mr Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud, money laundering and corruption charges before judge Anthony Pitts.

Among the charges against the former governor are conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a $37 million share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in telecoms company, V Mobile.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court that the former governor had accepted he was involved in “wide-scale theft, fraud and corruption” when he was governor of Delta state.

Mr Wass further alleged that Mr Ibori used a false date of birth when he ran for the governorship of Delta state to conceal previous convictions as a criminal record would have excluded him from taking part in the election.

Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said it is estimated that the former governor stole around £250 million (N62.5 billion) from Delta state.

According to Mr Whatmore “the scale can only be described as huge. Vast sums of money which were used to fund his lavish lifestyle. The real harm in this case is the potential loss to people in some of the poorest regions in the world.

“Attempts will now be made to confiscate as much of the money as possible, so that it can be returned to the Delta state,” he added.

The guilty plea brings to a close the long drawn legal tussle initiated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which was meant to compel the former governor to answer to the corrupt deals he carried out during the eight years he governed the state.

His accomplices – including his sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori, his associate, Udoamaka Okonkwo and his wife, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori – have already received sentences between five and eight years for aiding the former governor’s illicit activities during his two-term tenure.

His UK-based lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, was also handed down a 10-year sentence in April. He had earlier been sentenced to a 7 year sentence that runs concurrently with his more recent conviction.

In December 2009, a Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State, discharged and acquitted Mr Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the EFCC.

Mr Ibori was however apprehended by Interpol in Dubai and extradited to London in 2011, where he has remained in police custody.

He is due to be sentenced on 16 April.