Former Goldman Sachs banker helped Ibori launder loot – Prosecutor

Prosecutors in the United Kingdom on Thursday accused a former Goldman Sachs banker from St John’s Wood, Ellias Preko, 52, of helping former governor of Delta state, James Ibori set up a web of offshore trusts and companies to launder the cash.

Prosecutors said the Harvard graduate banker abused his “gold-plated credentials” to conceal Mr Ibori’s “dirty money”.

Mr Ibori had last month pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and money laundering after police claimed he stole £160million during his eight-year term in office.

The Prosecutor told a Southwark crown court that Mr Preko used his connections and reputation to “unlock financial doors” and “sidestep regulations” to help siphon off £4m of Ibori’s fortune.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass said that Mr Preko, who was Goldman Sachs’ executive director for private clients in Sub-Saharan Africa, first met Mr Ibori in 1997.

It is alleged he created a series of Guernsey-based trusts and shell companies for Mr Ibori before leaving Goldman Sachs in 2001.
The prosecutor said Mr Preko walked away with many of the bank’s West African clients, who the she described as “clients that Goldman Sachs were not prepared to touch”.

Ms Wass told the court that Ibori siphoned millions out of the Delta State by rigging the tendering process for state contracts and awarding contracts to his mistress.

He amassed a wealth of “enormous proportions” with which he bought properties in the UK, South Africa and the US.

He was negotiating to buy a £12.5million private jet when Scotland Yard detectives caught him.

Mr Ibori will be sentenced on April 16.

However, Mr Preko denies three counts of money laundering and two counts of forgery.

Goldman Sachs’ declining reputation

Goldman Sachs reputation of assisting corrupt clients to launder their dirty money was on Wednesday explained in an op-ed by a former Vice President of the bank, Greg Smith which was published in the US most famous newspaper, The New York Times.

In the article titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” Mr Smith’s diatribe declared Goldman’s environment to be “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.”

He said the management of the bank allows “the interests of the client… to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.”

Though the bank gave a statement in response to its former employee’s article saying that the former Vice President is disgruntled and “merely one of 1,200 Vice Presidents” of the bank, it did not deny the accusation of corruption.

Ibori’s slippery route: From store cashier to international playboy

The Daily Mail of London exposes the massive wealth of former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who on Monday pleaded guilty to a 10-count of money laundering and conspiracy before a Southwark Crown Court in London.

His rise from DIY store worker to international playboy with a £250 million fortune is the stuff of dreams.

A few years after quitting his £5,000-a-year job as a cashier for Wickes, James Ibori had become one of Nigeria’s most influential and richest politicians.

He wasted no time spending his new-found wealth on luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars, five-star travel and fees at exclusive boarding schools.

But on Monday the 49-year-old stood shame-faced in the dock of London’s Southwark Court as he admitted stealing tens of millions of pounds from the oil-rich state he governed in Nigeria. Scotland Yard detectives believe his fraud could exceed £250million.

Police investigation into Mr Ibori’s activities revealed that the former Delta state governor is in possession of the following assets:

1. A six-bedroom house with indoor pool in Hampstead worth £2.2million;

2. A flat opposite the nearby Abbey Road recording studios;

3. A property in Dorset, a £3.2million mansion in South Africa;

4. Abuja Mansions;

5. Mayflower Lodge: One of Udoamaka Onuigbo’s (Mr Ibori’s associate) London properties;

6. Kingfisher Way: One of Ms Onuigbo’s London properties;

7. Ms Onuigbo’s luxury house in Lagos;

8. Woodhill Crescent, Kenton: One of Christine Ibori-Ibie’s (Mr Ibori’s Sister) London properties;

9. Uphill Drive: One of Mrs Ibori-Ibie’s London properties;

10. A fleet of armoured Range Rovers costing £600,000 and a £120,000 Bentley;

11. A Mercedes Maybach worth more than £300,000 which he bought at a dealer on Park Lane and immediately shipped to South Africa; and

12. A £12 million private jet.

The investigation also found out that the Mr Ibori spends up to £126,000 a month on his credit cards and ran up a £15,000 bill for a two-day stay at the Lanesborough hotel in London.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court that Mr Ibori concealed his UK criminal record, which would have excluded him from office in Nigeria.
“He was never the legitimate governor and there was effectively a thief in government house,” Miss Wass said. “As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta State’s wealth and hand out patronage.”

According to the prosecutor, Mr Ibori abused his position to award contracts to his associates including his sister and his mistress.
Scotland Yard began its investigation into Mr Ibori activities after officers found two computer hard drives in his London office that revealed his criminality.

He was arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in December 2007, but two years later a court in his home town, Asaba, dismissed the charges saying there was not enough evidence.

When the case was reopened by Nigerian authorities in April 2010, Ibori fled to Dubai where he was detained at the request of the Metropolitan Police and extradited to the UK last April.

In a packed courtroom Ibori, dressed in a dark grey suit and black shirt, appeared in the dock to enter ten guilty pleas to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy on what was due to be the first day of a 12-week trial.

His wife, his mistress and his sister were all jailed for five years each for money laundering offences following earlier trials.

Last March, Gohil, 46, and described as Ibori’s London-based lawyer, was jailed for seven years for his role in the scam.

Attempts will be made to confiscate as much of Ibori’s money and assets as possible so that they can be returned to Nigeria.

The Met’s Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said: “It is always rewarding for anyone working on a proceeds of corruption case to know that the stolen funds they identify will eventually be returned to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.”

Ibori will be sentenced on April 16 and 17.

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