The Crown prosecutor, who has been vigorously contesting the legality of assets belonging to the former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, Tuesday failed to gain upper hand especially on the numbers of shares Ibori controls in Oando Plc.
At the Southwark Crown Court, London, venue of the assets confiscation hearing, the Crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass, explored all possible tactics while cross-examining a witness to unearth if Ibori, either by proxy, has any tangible shares, with Oando to no avail.
The defence witness, Mr. Olatunde Oyewole, a solicitor and senior partner, Olatunde Oyewole chambers in Lagos, was brought in by Ibori’s defence team to give evidence on what he knows about Ibori’s assets, especially as it relates to Oando’s shares.
Mounting the witness box at about 2.10p.m., Oyewole, wearing a pair of glasses and black suit, stood ready to testify on oath.
“What is your name, address, date of birth and what is your profession and spell the word Leki for us,” Ibori’s defence lawyer, Mr. Ivan Krolick, asked Oyewole.
The witness did not only tell Judge Anthony Pitts what he was asked, but went further to add that he was called to the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in 1984 and has served as a senior partner in his law firm which he inherited from his father.
After that, Krolick took the lead and asked him to tell the court what he knew about Ocean and Oil Services, apparently trying to establish if there was a link between Oando and Ibori.
Oyewole took a firm stand explaining that he followed the process that saw the liquidation of Ocean and Oil Services in 2009 as the company had seized trading in 2005.
He said the two companies had no common connection nor had any common shareholding with Oando.
For clarity, Krolick then asked the witness succinctly to tell the judge if Ibori had any shares in Ocean and Oil services. To this, Oyewole said, no.
But the turn of the prosecuting lawyer came when Oyewole would have broken into a sweat, if not the cold weather that permeated Court Room 14.
Wass pointedly asked the witness if Ibori had any shares in Ocean and Oil Services.
But of paramount importance to her was for the witness to tell the judge if he, Ibori, has the said 8,996,000 shares in Oando either directly or indirectly using Edgeware Resources Limited.
Oyewole, who knew the tricks adopted by his co-lawyers to extract information, told the court that he could not categorically state who the shareholders were in Oando, except through its register and if he Ibori held any shares, it could be possibly when Oando was known as Unipetrol Plc.
The British police had claimed that Ibori had a substantial interest in Oando, hence the payment of $1.7 million foreign exchange transaction made by Ocean and Oil Services Limited into the Stanhope Account.
Ocean and Oil, a totally a different company, was mistaken as Oando by the prosecution.
Trying to discredit Olatunde’s claim, Wass, thundered, “Are you able to say that Ibori has shares in Oando?”
Olatunde calmly responded: “No.”
Sasha: “What about Ocean and Oil?”
Olatunde: “Not ever.”
Sasha: “What about before 1999?”
Sasha: “Are you saying you know all the shareholders?”
Olatunde: “There are just three shareholders in Ocean and Oil Services Limited, and I know all of them, we were meeting often, Ibori was not one of them.”
On the other hand, Oyewole said he first heard about Edgeware Resource Limited from newspaper publication, but insisted that Ibori had no shares with Ocean and Oil Services.
He, therefore, concluded that he has no evidence linking Ibori with Oando, more so as Oando is a publicly quoted company.
Compounding the embarrassing moment for the British prosecutors, an independent forensic accountant and expert, Mrs. Stow had told the court on Monday that she and her colleagues could not trace any funds to Delta State in many of the statements and documents used by the prosecution against Ibori in the over 800 hours she and her colleagues spent looking through the bundle of evidences used in the trial.
She said: “We have not seen specifically statements which link Ibori’s funds to Delta State.”
Also, speaking through his solicitor after the court’s sitting, Ibori said: “It has become apparent over the last two weeks that the crown’s case against me and the purported companies they claim I have hidden assets in has been uncertain, unclear and they have been inconsistent in their submissions and assertions.”
He continued: “It is my understanding at the start of this proceedings that the Crown claimed I own 30 per cent of Oando Plc only to hear that the chief prosecutor stood up in court last week and disagreed with her own assertions that was put forward by Detective Constable Peter Clark, who even claimed that “Ocean and Oil Services Limited and Oando were the same.”
“Troubled by the number of times the Crown prosecution in their attempt to forcibly send him down have lied, changed their stories and cooked up phantom assertions, the former governor.”
“After today’s evidence, it is obvious that not only did the Crown prosecution disagree on shareholding, they did not appreciate the difference between Ocean and Oil Services and Oando, and once again the prosecution’s case has come down to inferences and assertions, lacking any credible evidence.”
Judge Anthony Pitts, in closing the day’s proceedings, told the defence team and the prosecution that they should all be ready for their submission in the case, which had entered its third week.
The court adjourned till Friday to give time to the lawyers to fine-tune their final legal presentations.
Meanwhile, Christine Ibie-Ibori, was not in court yesterday following the altercation that ensued between her and Mrs. Alice Ukoko, a human rights defender yesterday.
Earlier, Ukoko had alleged that Ibie-Ibori, had invoked the Holy Ghost power to destroy her (Ukoko) because of her stand against the brother.
Information from This Day was used in this report.