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UK returns $5.97m stolen by Nigerian ex-governor who planned to buy private jet

Former Delta State governor James Ibori.


Abuja. Nigeria has received the sum of £4,214,017 ($5.97 million), which is loot recovered by the United Kingdom from former Governor of oil-rich Delta State, Mr James Ibori, who was jailed in Britain in 2012 for fraud.

Mr Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, confirmed that the West African country was credited with the Naira equivalent of the money on May 10, 2021.

Mr Ibori, 61, was Governor from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. The Department for International Development (DfID) and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) began investigating Mr Ibori in 2005. He was charged with 170 counts of fraud in Nigeria, but was acquitted of all of them by a federal court in 2009.

He later fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he was arrested and repatriated to the UK to face money laundering and fraud charges.

The ex-governor pleaded guilty in February 2012 to 10 offences relating to conspiracy to launder funds from the State, substantive counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining money transfer by deception and fraud. In April 2012, he was handed a 13-year jail sentence after admitting to fraud of nearly £50 million.

The prosecutor, Sasha Wass, told the court that Mr Ibori and his associates used multiple accounts at banks to launder millions of pounds, some of which was used to buy high end real estate in London.

The court heard that Mr Ibori, once a “petty thief with his hand in the till” at the DIY store Wickes, amassed a portfolio of six properties outside Nigeria worth £6.9 million at a time he was being paid £4,000 a year as State Governor of Delta region.

The properties in London included a flat in St John’s Wood, a house in Hampstead and another in Regent’s Park. He also had a £3 million mansion in South Africa, as well as properties in Texas and in Dorset, near to where his children attended private school.

Private jet

Mr Ibori also bought a fleet of luxury cars, and in three years ran up £920,000 on his American Express Centurion card – a card only available to the super-rich, Wass told the court.

In 2005, Mr Ibori instructed a London solicitor to buy a private jet costing $20 million. He was arrested after British police discovered that he had made the order to purchase the plane.

One of Mr Ibori’s wives, Theresa, his sister Christine Ibori-Idie; mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo and London-based solicitor Bhadresh Gohil, have all been convicted of money laundering.

Still popular

Despite a graft-tainted career and court convictions, after his release from jail in 2016, Mr Ibori’s return to Nigeria in 2017 was met with celebration from a section of locals with whom he remains popular.

Delta Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had appealed to the federal government to release the returned money to the state since it was stolen from there.

He wrote to the federal government regarding the issue just a few weeks after the UK committed to return the loot recovered.

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