Former Nigeria governor James Ibori jailed for 13 years

It is thought Ibori could have stolen many millions aimed at helping Nigeria's poor

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A former London DIY store cashier who became governor of an oil-rich Nigerian state has been jailed for 13 years for fraud totalling nearly £50m ($77m).

James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, admitted 10 counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

Southwark Crown Court was told the amount he stole from the people of Delta state was "unquantified".

Ibori, who evaded capture in Nigeria after a mob of supporters attacked police, was arrested in Dubai in 2010.

He was extradited to the UK, where he was prosecuted based on evidence from the Metropolitan Police.

Analysis

Police officers stood, their arms crossed, in front of the courtroom door. Admission was for press and family only. Crowds of supporters and critics pushed and shoved and tutted about not being able to get into the hearing.

But the court authorities were taking no chances after events on Monday when people surged into the hearing knocking the prosecutor off her feet.

Protesters outside chanted slogans celebrating Ibori's sentence. Supporters glared at them.

Despite admitting stealing tens of millions of pounds from state coffers meant to help some of the poorest people in Nigeria, he still has some important friends.

But two much bigger questions hover over the whole trial.

First, when a man who has an official salary of £4,000 a year buys a house in Hampstead worth £2.2m, why did no-one smell a rat?

Second, why did some of the best known banks in the world not ask questions about where the cash he deposited with them came from?

One of the counts Ibori admitted related to a $37m (£23m) fraud pertaining to the sale of Delta State's share in Nigerian privatised phone company company V Mobile.

He was governor of Delta State between May 1999 and May 2007.

Sasha Wass, QC, prosecuting, told the court Ibori "deliberately and systematically" defrauded the people he was elected to represent.

The court heard he came to the UK in the 1980s and worked as a cashier at a Wickes DIY store in Ruislip, north west London.

He was convicted in 1991 of stealing from the store but then returned to Nigeria and began his climb up the People's Democratic Party (PDP) network.

When he ran for governor he lied about his date of birth to hide his criminal conviction in the UK - which would have prevented him standing for office.

Ibori, whose address was given as Primrose Hill, north London, claims to be 53 but police in London say he is 49.

Sentencing him, Judge Anthony Pitts told Ibori: "You lived modestly in London in the 1990s and no-one I think hearing at that time would imagine the multi millionaire high profile governor that you became some eight or nine years later."

He became governor in 1999 but soon began taking money from state coffers.

Judge Pitts said: "It was during those two terms that you turned yourself in short order into a multi-millionaire through corruption and theft in your powerful position as Delta state governor."

Ibori bought:

  • A house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2m
  • A property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000
  • A £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa
  • A fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000
  • A £120,000 Bentley
  • A Mercedes Maybach for 407,000 euros that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa

After the hearing Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said it would bid to confiscate the assets Ibori had acquired his riches "at the expense of the some of the poorest people in the world".

'Zero tolerance'

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "James Ibori's sentence sends a strong and important message to those who seek to use Britain as a refuge for their crimes.

"Corruption is a cancer in developing countries and the coalition government has a zero tolerance approach to it."

On Monday, the BBC's Newsnight revealed an equity fund backed by the UK Department for International Development's private enterprise arm, CDC Group, was being investigated by Nigerian officials.

It uncovered claims suggesting CDC Group put $47.5m (£29.9m) in to the private fund, which invested in Nigerian companies allegedly linked to Ibori.

DfID said the allegations dated to 2009 and that CDC, which is overseen by Mr Mitchell, always carried out "full and thorough" checks before investing in a fund manager.

CDC had investigated the claims at the time, finding "no indication that British funding had been misused", it said.

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