The hunt by the Crown prosecution for the hidden assets of former Delta State governor, James Ibori, suffered a set-back yesterday at the Southwark Crown Court, United Kingdom (UK), when the judge, Mr. Anthony Pitts, upheld an objection that a vital document linking Ibori to a substantial holding of the shares of Oando Oil Plc should not be admitted as exhibit.
The Guardian noticed smile on the faces of Ibori’s defence counsel, an Oando’s lawyer, Andrew Ballie, as the judge ruled that the Crown Prosecutor, Sasha Wass, had not tendered the document as a prosecution material prior to the commencement of the hearing.
Just before Pitts adjourned for the day, The Guardian requested that in the spirit of fair reporting, the court should permit the newspaper to “see a copy of the document which your Honour blocked,” but the judged refused, arguing that since he had rejected it as an exhibit, he could not then turn round and allow The Guardian access to a copy. “It is for that reason I refused it,” Pitts said.
Prior to that defence objection, Wass, who was re-examining Detective Peter Clark in the witness box, had started to turn the screw on Ibori, telling the court that “there is a financial link between Ibori and Oando” and that what she had to tender was a material that showed that Adebimpe Pogyson operated a series of companies for the former governor.
Wass continued by telling the court that “Ibori operated a series of companies “and that “the prosecution is right to put the court in the full picture.” She then produced and read a letter dated September 2, 2004, written on behalf of a company, Edgeware Resources Ltd, and which has as directors, J. A. Tinubu, Messrs Okoloko, Osifo and Boyo. According to the letter, the directors are holding 890,625 shares in Oando Plc on trust for another company linked to the former governor.
But Ibori’s lawyer, Krolick, wearing a glooming look, jumped up and objected, saying “she wanted to show that Ibori had hidden assets and that’s not the way to do it.” He queried why the defence was not served the material and said “what was this letter served. Someone must have the decision not to serve it.” Although Wass argued that it was there somewhere in the defence bundle, Pitts later ruled against the prosecution. “It is quite clear to me that the document had to be disclosed the way it should be. If I allow it, the case will continue forever,” the judge ruled. “For that reason – that the document wasn’t fully disclosed at the beginning – Mr. Krolick, I’m with you,” the judge said.
The hearing continues on Monday.
Information from Guardian was used in this report.