The former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, has told the Southwark Crown Court in London that the British court system lacks the power and jurisdiction to determine and reach a conclusion for the Nigerian Code of Conduct Bureau to confiscate his assets.
Ibori is currently serving a jail term in a London prison.
The former governor, who spoke through his lead counsel, Ivan Krolic, argued that since Nigeria was an independent nation, is the British court system lacked the powers and jurisdiction to determine and reach a conclusion over assets declared or undeclared in Nigeria.
The British Crown prosecution, among other allegations, have accused the former governor of non-declaration or false declaration of his assets as required by Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) during his time as governor of Delta State.
As the legal battle on the assets confiscation hearing of the former governor enters its final stage, the British crown prosecution in their arguments asked the British court to confiscate the assets of the former governor because he breached CCB statutory requirements on assets declaration.
The crown’s lead prosecutor, Sasha Wass, asking for the confiscation of every single penny above the sum of Ibori’s emoluments as governor said: “Every asset over and above that which was declared and which was referable to his (Ibori) level of salary can be shown to be the proceeds of his criminal conduct, namely fraud and corruption.”
Ibori’s lawyer firmly opposed that stance. In a firm manner and looking straight into the British Judge Anthony Pitts’s eyes, Krolic said: “Even where there is a legal obligation to make declaration of income or assets, the failure to make any such declaration or making of false declaration (if such exists) cannot cause the property to be confiscated because this cannot turn otherwise legitimately acquired assets into criminal property, since this procedure requires the intervention of a third party, CCB And with the unknown outcome of the bureau’s input, it is not possible for an English court to reach any conclusion about the attitude of Nigeria’s CCB to issues to issues as whether undeclared property held in a discretionary trust would constitute breach of the bureau’s code of conduct.”
Krolic added: “In any event, these procedures are those of the of the Federal Government of Nigeria and thus, any forfeiture would benefit the Federal Government of Nigeria and non-declaration could not constitute a defrauding of Delta State, a necessary provenance in these proceedings.”
He had earlier told the court that despite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and British Metropolitan police’s arrest and detention of the officials of Delta State Government including its Accountant-General between 2005 and October 2007, the EFCC and the British Police did not have any evidence that the state was defrauded by Ibori or that the state funds could be traced to accounts of the former governor except for his salary. And this is an incontestable fact,” he said, nodding his head repeatedly for effect.
Relying on the evidence given before the crown court by the former Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, where he, said “Over the eight years of Ibori’s governorship, approximately half of the state revenues of $1billion were either wasted or stolen by him, James,” the Crown Prosecutor, Wass said: “This puts Ibori’s benefits figure in the region of $500 million’.
She, therefore, urged the British court to make a confiscation order of £90,000,000 against Ibori, based on nothing but somebody’s whimsical and capricious comments.
In his argument against the crown prosecution’s confiscation request and their reliance on Ribadu’s claim that Ibori defrauded Delta State, Krolic said: “It is the crown’s case that Delta State was the victim of the fraud done by James Ibori, yet there is no single evidence from Delta State, the victim, either in the Crown’s trial bundle or this hearing that there were withdrawals and funds diversion without just cause despite Nigeria EFCC’s and British Met Police’s detention of Delta State top officials in the course of their investigations. The allegations are not supported by any iota of documentary evidence. This is not the way justice is done.”
Reacting to the British crown’s confiscation request order against him, Ibori said through his solicitor, Mr. Jonathan Epelle, “once you get passed the sensational media headlines and the ridiculous amount of money that has been mentioned, this confiscation proceedings are all about facts, figures and evidence.”
“And this is where Ribadu or the British Police have done nothing at all to advance their case; they have all the while relied on scoring sensational headlines in the news media.”
Ibori continued: “The prosecution has always claimed that I defrauded Delta State of huge sums of money, I am content to say that in this case that we have been witnessing for the last three weeks, the evidence should speak for itself and it should be crystal clear to anyone except the most biased observers that there has been a huge and substantial gap between the prosecution’s sensational claims and the hard evidence required to back up those claims, the sort of evidence that is backed by verifiable facts, instead of nothing but unjustifiable quotes in the news outlets.”
Meanwhile, the Delta State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN) has denied allegations by the London Metropolitan Police that the state government refused to release vital documents to it while investigating the corruption case against Ibori.
Ajuyah, who made the clarification while speaking to the press yesterday, said he was shocked that the London Met police could make such allegations against the state government when in fact it never made any request for any document relating to Ibori’s trial.
He said: “The truth is that there was never a time the Metropolitan Police requested for information or document from Delta State.
“No request was made either formally or informally and I do not think the person who made that assertion actually meant Delta State. If he did, then it is not a sincere or truthful statement.
“I believe a request on that nature should be in writing. Was any evidence of the request produced? None was produced. Believe it, none was made and I say so with all sense of responsibility.
However, the Attorney-General stated that the EFCC had requested to conduct an audit into the Delta State accounts sometime in 2007 over which judicial intervention was sought.
He said: “In fact, the only authority that ever contacted us on the Ibori case was the EFCC and initially they requested for documents from 1999 to 2007 for audit.
“It was a general request and as a responsible government, it approached the court for a determination of the right of the state and an important issue was whether EFCC has the right to audit a state under the constitution?
There are other issues, which are ‘sub judice’, but the court granted and order ex-parte to restrain the EFCC until determination of motion on notice.
“That order lasted for very short period and thereafter, EFCC made specific requests and the state government gave full and maximum cooperation.
“EFCC has boxes and boxes of documents from the state and I am aware that the documents were in possession of the Metro police and Crown Prosecution. If the State did not co operate with EFCC, how come the Crown had materials from the Delta State.’
Ajuyah said this clarification became necessary in the face of the spurious allegation the Metropolitan Police made against the Delta State Government as the asset recovering trail instituted by Oando Oil against Ibori continues in London.
Information from This Day was used in this report.