Monday, October 2, 2023

Ibori reacts as UK court orders confiscation of $130m from him

Former governor of Delta state, Mr James Ibori has accused London judge, David Tomlinson, of being impartial for ordering the confiscation of his $130m yesterday which he argues is “both wholly unrealistic and unrealisable”.

Judge David Tomlinson, delivering the confiscation order at Southwark Crown Court, said Ibori should pay the sum immediately or face an eight-year jail sentence. Reacting after a court hearing outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain, the former governor said he would appeal against the confiscation order, which he said was difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. Meanwhile, a socio-political group, Rescue Nigeria Economy Project, has faulted the ruling and backed Ibori’s decision to appeal while expressing hope that justice will prevail eventually.

In his statement, Ibori said, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the ‘definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’. If that is true then I must be going mad because in over a decade since the British Courts have been persecuting me and those close to me – I kept believing that justice and fairness would eventually triumph.

“In hearing after hearing through the years, despite some of the most logic-defying rulings against me- I still believed. Despite clear evidence of police corruption against the main officer in my case (evidence so strong that it caused the lead prosecutor to resign from my case) I still believed. Despite a clear victory in my 2013 Confiscation hearing which left the Judge unable to make an order against me, only to have him rule that the prosecution should start the trial afresh some years later – I still believed.

“However, today’s ruling from Judge Tomlinson is difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. I have to move past the fact that the British Courts found themselves competent to sit in Judgment over contracts awarded in Delta State, for contracts that were legitimately awarded and completed. I have come to accept my fate despite the inability of the British prosecutors to show any evidence whatsoever of monies defrauded or indeed missing from Delta State.

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“Since 2005 the British Prosecutors have investigated my assets worldwide, they have had a restraint order in place on most of those assets and they are well aware that the total monetary value of those assets is nowhere close to the sums that were the subject of today’s Order. Not withstanding the fact that many of the assets are not and have never been owned by me – it seems that if you are my friend and you allowed me to spend some holiday time in your house, then by this order I now own your home and must ask you to sell it to satisfy the Order.

“The Order made today was to be paid immediately, this was made in the full knowledge that it could take many months to actually realise the sale of many of these assets. There is an 8 year default sentence, which means that if I do not co-operate and pay nothing at all, then the prosecution can apply for the imposition of the default sentence. However as the prosecution already has a Restraint Order over the assets – the situation of my not co-operating or paying will not arise.

“However, an issue arises if my Restrained Assets are sold, and the total realised from the sale does not equal the amount in the Order, then the Prosecution can still apply for part of the default sentence to be applied, but they could only ask for a sliding scale reduction of the 8 years default sentence based on the amounts that remain outstanding. If such an application were to be made it would be vigorously contested. In the normal course of events any talk of a default sentence would normally be stayed until any outstanding Appeal has been concluded.

“The Judge in this case has appears to have cast aside any pretence of impartiality and has made an Order which is both wholly unrealistic and unrealisable. He has completely disregarded any arguments, evidence or expert witnesses in my favour. It was apparent during these last two days that he has forgotten many of the important elements of the case which is unsurprising as it is almost two years since the case was concluded. It has taken him two years to write this Judgment and in the interim he has presided over hundreds of cases, but I refuse to make excuses for him.

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“At this point in time words fail me and so the question for me as I take my case to the Court of Appeal, is, if I continue to believe that I may finally get some Justice, is this the definition of madness? I know one thing for sure, that if I do not go to the Court of Appeal to contest this outrageous Order then my people will definitely say that I am a madman”.

UK court out to persecute Ibori —Group

A socio-political group, Rescue Nigeria Economy Project, on Friday, faulted the ruling on the confiscation from former Delta state governor, Chief James Ibori.

The group, in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Dennis Alamu-George, alleged that the UK government, through Judge Tomlinson was not keen on seeking justice but persecution of Ibori.

According to the group, it has never happened in the history of confiscation orders to ask for immediate payment as Judge Tomlinson ordered.

The statement reads: “For us, this is a very complex and complicated persecution. We have been following the matter between Ibori and the UK government and we strongly believe the issue goes beyond acts of corruption as the UK government wants the world to believe.

“If you recall, when Ibori was to be released in December 2016, the Home Office made an application that he should be electronically tagged and subjected to strict curfew conditions. However, the application was rejected by Justice May who described the Home Secretary’s attempts to detain Ibori as quite extraordinary. While condemning the actions of the Home Office and ordering Ibori to be immediately freed from prison, Mrs Justice May said: ‘You don’t hold someone just because it is convenient to do so and without plans to deport them’.

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“The judge also accepted arguments that the home secretary was attempting to misuse her immigration and deportation powers. In the recent case, we unequivocally reject the order by the court that Ibori should make payments immediately or be jailed. By the judgment, Judge Tomlinson is trying to railroad Ibori into making payments. That to us, is abuse of fair hearing. He has promised to appeal the ruling up to the Supreme Court level in UK. That fundamental rights should be respected.

“The circumstances surrounding his incarceration in 2012 is still being debated by his people who see him as the defender of their interests in the Niger Delta, especially on the issue of resource control. There are also interviews in which some have claimed his trial is politically motivated.

“Nigerians should stop being a lynch mob. They should calm down and let justice take its course. We back Ibori on his decision to appeal the judgment. If he is guilty, let the highest courts in UK decide. Judge Tomlinson cannot be the Alpha and Omega in a case he himself described as very complicated.

“We implore the Nigerian government to assert its right as an independent nation and stand by her citizens, especially those who are being unnecessary victimised and oppressed by the so-called western nations. In this matter, the government should support Ibori’s decision to seek redress in the highest courts in the United Kingdom.

“This is just the beginning of long years of litigations to come before any conclusions can be reached. We are fully in support of Ibori’s decision to appeal. Our hope is justice will prevail eventually.”

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