Today, at the Southwark Crown Court 9, London, a large crowd of Ibori’s supporters and journalists gathered outstide to witness the sentencing hearing of the former governor. There were reports of scuffles as The Metropolitan Police and court officials attempted to control the crowd of people who wanted to gain access into the court.
Court officials had attempted to sort out unruly persons among the crowd of Ibori’s supporters by asking all visitors to form a queue and write their names. But this led to more confusion as people struggled to get their names on a list. Uniformed policemen had to be invited to forcibly remove unruly visitors from the court. The police allowed only 16 members of Ibori’s family and journalists to enter the court.
Allowed entry into the court were some of Ibori’s supporters who include: John Nani, Prince Abuteh, Odebala, Emeyele, Igbuya, Faith Majemite, Tebite, Emmanuel Uduaghan (not the Delta State governor) among others. Popular Itsekiri militant, Imani Ayiri was also in court.
The hearing began at about 11:19am after James Ibori was brought in and the Judge came in to the court.
Ibori was brought into court at 11:15am wearing a grey suit, black tie and vest and was docked in a glass-covered cubicle. Ibori beaming with confidence sat on one of the 3 seats in the cubicle with his hair almost turning grey.
The lawyers for the prosecution and the defence presented their closing arguments before the court.
The Prosecutor, Sasha Weils, told the London Court that Ibori “systematically and deliberately defrauded his people during his tenure as governor of the oil-rich Delta State.” After going through a reading of all the crimes Ibori has committed since 1991, both in Nigeria and in the UK, she remarked that “the amount James Ibori stole is unquantified” and “he is a common thief.”
The Prosecutor listed Ibori’s bank accounts as “6 in Barclay’s, 2 in Citi Bank and several in the Channel Islands”. She also added that “Ibori had made his 4-month old son a director in one of his companies, a company used as a conduit to launder stolen money”.
The prosecution, also said he violated Section 182 and Section 181 (1) of the Nigerian constitution when he contested the governorship election less than 10years after he was jailed in the United Kingdom. Ibori was jailed in 1991 and 1992 in London.
The Judge described Ibori’s several frauds as “sensational” and called for a recess soon after.
When the court reconvened by 2pm, his defence counsel, Nicholas Pernell prayed for a lenient sentence, blaming the Nigerian military for creating the conditions that lured Ibori into corruption.
In an attempt to secure a lenient sentencing for Ibori, his has lawyer just told the Crown Court that he was instrumental in securing the release of hostages in the Niger-Delta.
Judge Anthony Pitts however told Ibori’s Counsel that he has not been called upon to make a judgment of Ibori’s achievements as governor as argued by his counsel but to make a judgment on the charges of corruption against him.
James Ibori had earlier pleaded guilty to a number of corruption and money laundering charges against him put at about $250million before Judge Pitts. This includes the V-Mobile and Bombardaire scams which amounted to $50million. Ibori and Victor Attah, former Akwa Ibom state governor also formed a phantom company called ADF to siphon US$37.5million from Delta and Akwa Ibom states’ shares in V-Mobile.
He faces up to 10 years in a UK prison.
The case has been adjourned to tomorrow, Tuesday 17th April 2012 for the actual sentencing.
News Source: Punch News | Daily Times | Vanguard News