Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori had about 17 bank accounts linked to him in different countries across the world, including the United States, Britain, Austria, Ghana and Guernsey. The British Crown Prosecutor, Jonathan Kinnear, who made the startling disclosure at the Confiscation of Assets hearing of the two-time governor in Courtroom Three of Southwark Crown Court, last Friday, also revealed that Ibori paid over $4m for the private Bombardier Jet he bought in South Africa.
“Very large sums of money went into these accounts and Mr. Ibori has never explained the source of these funds,” he told the hearing, which opened on Thursday and is expected to last about two weeks, though scheduled for four. The hearing was also told of two accounts linked to Ibori that have a combined balance of about $34m (plus interests), which nobody has come forward to claim.
Although Ibori, who served jailed term in British prisons between 2012 and 2016, after pleading guilty to fraud and money laundering charges at the same court in 2012, also tried hard to cover his tracks. But the prosecutor gave Judge Tomlinson forensic details of how the former governor used proxies and bogus companies to wire millions of pounds across various accounts through which he then funded his lifestyle and those of his family members, including his mistress, Udoamaka Onuigbo.
“Mr. Ibori’s criminal conduct,” according to the crown (state) counsel included using an oil company to deposit £1.2m in an account within two weeks in 2004, and also using Delta State officials to write cheques, which they subsequently cashed and then deposited into accounts linked to him. These monies were later siphoned out of the local accounts to those his associates operated in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.”
Flipping through pages of bundled evidence on the third-floor venue of the hearing, Kinnear disclosed that Ibori also masterminded the payment of $4.7m “for the Johannesburg property.” This, according to the crown counsel, was then used to “pay for the bombardier jet. The prosecutor mentioned another instance when “€460, 000 used to buy a Mercedes Benz came out,” of accounts linked to the former governor. The court also heard how the sums of £120, 000 and £60, 000 were spent in another instance, while Ibori was on the run in Dubai.
Before the judge rose and excluded the press from a 20-minute closed-door session between himself and both sides of the bench, at the instance of the crown prosecutor, Kinnear fingered two other associates of Ibori, through which his unexplained millions were laundered. Addressing the court, he said: “Your honor, the next block of items are items 20 to 25. Accounts in the name of Onuigbo and Christine,” and he told how they served as conduits to move funds through the accounts on behalf of the mastermind, Ibori.
When the hearing resumed for the open sitting at around 11.20 am, Kinnear furthered told the court that “the crown’s case is that Sagicon, one of the major bogus companies that served as his conduits were used to launder Mr. Ibori’s money. The evidence shows.” Besides, “there were huge amounts with little or no explanations. The ladies did his biddings. Fourthly, when these funds came out at the other end, they were for his benefits.”
Continuing with his submission as Ivan Krolick, and the four other members of Ibori’s defence listened, the crown prosecutor said dating back to 2003, a “couple of millions of dollars to Ibori was loose change,” as “he was focusing on bigger things,” including the fraudulent V-mobile shares transaction with the Akwa Ibom State government.
Aside making references to how payments in excess of a million pounds were routed in and out of a bogus trust company account based in the tax haven island of Guernsey in the English channel, off the coast of Normandy, and a meeting he had in May 2004 at the airport there with his frontmen, Kinnear stated that even though “the crown hasn’t been able to establish what it is that Sagicon did, but they have shown that about £8m was routed through Sagicon accounts,” and more importantly, “Sagicon was used for corrupt contracts,” which Ibori orchestrated.
Before wrapping up his submissions, the prosecutor further told the hearing that while it is not surprising that the former governor will want to claw back as much of the confiscated assets as possible, however, in “his latest reply of December 2019, he (Ibori) hasn’t provided evidence of where the funds came from.”
When the judge asked Ibori’s lead counsel how long he thinks his arguments will last, he replied, “l have a lot to put to him over two days.” The asset confiscation hearings continue.