FG begins ex-Delta governor’s extradition process
The Federal Government has commenced the process of extraditing a former governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori, from the United Kingdom, The PUNCH can confirm.
The Southwark Crown Court had, on April 17, 2012, sentenced Ibori to 13 years in prison after the ex-governor pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and stealing $250m from the Delta State treasury.
Ibori, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, was the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
He was, however, released on Wednesday following a court order that declined the UK government’s request for an extension of his sentence.
The UK Home Office had opposed Ibori’s release on the grounds that the process of the permanent forfeiture of his assets had yet to be completed.
According to the BBC, the UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, did not intend to deport Ibori to Nigeria until he handed over £18m of the “proceeds of crime” he alleged the ex-governor held.
The convicted former governor, was, however, allowed to go home on the condition that he would not travel out of the UK.
He is currently residing at his residence on Abbey Road, London, where he is under strict surveillance from where he will report to the UK Police weekly.
Impeccable sources within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told The PUNCH on Wednesday that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had directed the EFCC to forward the file containing the 170 charges earlier brought against Ibori in Nigeria.
The EFCC operative told one of our correspondents that the Federal Government would liaise with the British government to ensure that Ibori was extradited to Nigeria.
A source in the EFCC said, “We have started the process of extradition in conjunction with the Office of the AGF. We had started extradition process years ago but stopped it since he was in prison.
“We have now reactivated the process. It is the AGF that will communicate with the British Government, which will then extradite Ibori to Nigeria. The court process will be sent to the UK Government for extradition.”
When asked why all Ibori’s London properties had not yet been forfeited to the Federal Government despite the ample time, the EFCC source explained that the British system was such that asset recovery was done post-conviction.
He added, “So, they are just starting the process and that is why he has been asked not to leave the UK but should be reporting every week.
“The British Government wanted him to remain in custody but the court said he could keep coming from home; so, he will remain in the UK for now. If he does not show up in the police station, then it will be assumed that he has absconded.”
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Thursday, the spokesman for the British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Joe Abuku, said the UK government would continue to assist Nigeria with the recovery of properties.
He, however, said he could not comment on the legal proceedings against Ibori.
In a terse text message to one of our correspondents, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said, “His (Ibori’s) fate will be determined by the provisions of the law.”
A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, had, on December 17, 2009, discharged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the EFCC.
In 2010, his case was reopened by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, all attempts to arrest the ex-governor proved abortive as the 40 policemen guarding him at his country home in Oghara, Delta State, refused to allow the EFCC to arrest him.
Hundreds of youths in Delta State also confronted the EFCC operatives and prevented them from arresting the ex-governor by blocking the roads leading to his home with logs of wood.
Ibori fled Oghara in controversial circumstances and subsequently fled the country to Dubai, compelling the anti-graft agency to declare the fleeing ex-governor wanted.
The Federal Government could not apply for Ibori’s extradition as there was no extradition treaty between the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria at the time.
However, the British Government sought Ibori’s extradition and he was deported to the UK, where he was convicted and jailed for money laundering and fraud.
However, the EFCC took the matter to the Benin Division of the Appeal Court, where a three-man panel of justices on May 15, 2014, ruled that the ex-governor, who was serving a 13-year jail term in a London prison at the time, had a case to answer.
The EFCC subsequently said in a statement in 2014 that the ex-governor would be re-arrested upon the completion of his prison sentence in the UK.
The EFCC statement read, “With this judgment, the coast is clear for Ibori to face trial in Nigeria upon the completion of his jail term in London.”
Some of the properties traced to the ex-governor include a house in Hampstead, North London, worth £2.2m; a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, worth £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa; a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000; a £120,000 Bentley Continental GT; and a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash.
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