Former Nigeria bank CEO Cecilia Ibru jailed for fraud

Nigerian currency A number of Nigerian bank executives have been questioned on suspicion of fraud

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A former Nigerian bank chief has been sentenced to six months in prison for fraud and ordered to hand over $1.2bn (£786m) in cash and assets.

Cecilia Ibru, former CEO of Oceanic Bank, pleaded guilty to three of 25 counts of fraud and mismanagement.

She is one of a large number of executives held in connection with the near-collapse of nine banks in 2009.

The verdict is sending shockwaves through Nigeria's financial world, says the BBC's Caroline Duffield in Abuja.

'Making progress'

Mrs Ibru's sentence was the result of a settlement agreement, Judge Dan Abutu told the court in Lagos on Friday.

Her three sentences are for six months each, but will run concurrently. This means she will spend only six months in jail, our correspondent says.

"This is an indication that we are making progress in the war against graft in the country," Farida Waziri, who heads Nigeria's anti-corruption agency, said in a statement.

The government removed Mrs Ibru along with other executives from a number of financial institutions in 2009.

The central bank then had to step in and bail out nine banks which were on the brink of collapse because of reckless lending and fraud.

Mrs Ibru belongs to an elite family, which controls massive business interests across the country. She was famous on Nigeria's party circuit for her jewellery and her taste for corporate jets, our correspondent says.

Until her arrest, the former banker had been considered beyond the reach of the fraud police, our correspondent adds.

However, critics say too few cases are still being prosecuted.

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