IT’s no longer news that former Delta State governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori has been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in the United Kingdom. What many may not have realized is that the once-most powerful politician in the Niger-Delta has made history for himself and family in the Guinness Book of world Record.
Ibori may be the first man to have his wife, sister, mistress, lawyer, accountant and business associates as prison mates for related offences!
The wife, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori; mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo; sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie and lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil Daniel McCann and Lambertus De Boer –his financial advisors are currently serving in various United Kingdom prisons for similar fraud and money laundering offences that nailed Ibori as the prime suspect.
Judge Anthony Pitts slammed 13 years prison term on Ibori after he wisely pleaded guilty on February 27, 2012. His trial for various criminal offences lasted some years. In sentencing the former governor, the judge, Anthony Pitts took into consideration Ibori’s decision to plead guilty with all convincing evidences against him. A move that did not only save the time of the court but its financial resources.
Expectedly, Judge Pitts deducted the years Ibori had served before his conviction, meaning that Odirigborigbo, as he is fondly called will now spend less than five years in jail.
Although Ibori has not been transferred to his next permanent home for now, there are speculations he may be categorized as a high-risk prisoner considering the magnitude of his offence.
In May 2010, Ibori was arrested in the United Arab Emirates on an international warrant obtained by the Metropolitan Police of London. He was subsequently extradited to the United Kingdom in April 2011 and arraigned on 23-count charges of money laundering, forgery and fraud.
Ibori surprisingly pleaded guilty to the charges on February 27, 2012, when the trial opened at Southwark Crown court in the UK. He actually pleaded guilty to seven counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to commit forgery, one count of obtaining property by deception and one count of conspiracy to fraud.
His lawyer, Nicholas Pernell blamed Badrash Gohil and a former South-South governor for one of the charges (the V-mobile scam), claiming they were the architects of the fraud. His other claims that Ibori was instrumental to massive developmental strides in Delta State didn’t save the former governor now adorning the ignoble toga of a prisoner.
He also asked Judge Pitts to consider the plight of Ibori’s children whose parents have been jailed.
Ambassador John Fashanu’s show as a character witness did not also move the fearless and incorruptible judge, who sentenced the former Delta State governor. Other than having more relatives and associates in prison than anybody else, Ibori is also the first Nigerian former governor or top government official to be tried and convicted in a foreign land.
And to worsen his case, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is even preferring fresh corruption charges against him beside the ones he has already pleaded guilty.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, April 24, 2012