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Saturday, 2 April 2016

Curious facts of the Ibori London case

By Tony Eluemunor
Suddenly, things seem to be turning around for Chief James Onanefe
Ibori. There is a frenzy of writings in FACEBOOK about his release
date; some of the postings actually say he has already been released
and will be in Nigeria as soon as he could possibly get a seat on a
flight. To those who post such, I have little to say. So, this article is
not addressed to them, but to those who are doing their malicious
best to destroy whatever ray of positive light, from the Ibori point of
view, that has been trained recently on this case.
One such person approached me a few weeks ago to ask where Ibori
got the money with which he bought a private jet. When I told him
that Ibori never bought a private jet, he began to stutter. From there
he asked if it was not true that Ibori got some oil majors to launder
money for him. When I reminded him that Ibori never faced such a
charge, and that such nonsense only appeared in an unconscionable
newspaper allegation that Mr. Nuhu Ribadu made, and that such a
question has given his revisionist source away, he left after promising
to call me for further questioning. This man who came all the way
from the US and who claimed he was researching a book has yet to
call me again.
Yet, why such revisionist efforts? Suddenly, the hunters are becoming
the hunted as the British Police investigators and the Prosecution
officials that were arrayed against Ibori have been so deeply indicted
that they have all been dropped from the case. And the recent court
sessions on the case came at Chief Ibori’s behest. Now, Ibori’s legal
team may actually ask that Ibori’s conviction be quashed – as a
lawyer, Mr. Stephen Kimlish advised openly on London-based Ben TV
interview as was rebroadcast by AIT. He said: “Well, the fact is that
most times, people plead guilty for the wrong reasons. It does happen.
In my career I have seen people plead guilty because of wrong advice
or when the evidence seem too strong or when they have lost hope
and sometimes they don’t have the will-power to stand long trial or
their Barrister might say you will get a much lower sentence if you
plead guilty, so I can’t say in particular why James Ibori pleaded guilty
and whether he is guilty or not guilty but what I can say is that when
there is corruption on this scale and in the background of the case, I’m
involved in this case, the British law says that even if you pleaded
guilty or not, your guilty plea can be quashed because the British
public can’t discountenance such major corruption in a common
investigation, therefore, whether you plead guilty or you plead not
guilty, your conviction can be quashed. So in this case that is what we
are currently aiming for. As for Bhadresh Gohil, I am going for
quashing”!
One of the devilish media bashings Ibori suffered from is this example
from Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, implying in a newspaper article of
September 20, 2012 that Ibori had no other source of income while he
was Delta State Governor.
Relying on the 44-page paper filed by the London Metropolitan Police,
against Ibori in court, I’ll prove that Adeniyi and others erred terribly. It
bore a simple title: “R versus James Ibori. Opening Note For
Sentence”. It proclaimed in line one that the Defendant, James Ibori,
was the Governor of Delta State, one of the richest oil producing states
in Nigeria….Second item; “He deliberately and systematically defrauded
the people whose interests he had been elected to represent”.
Third item: “The total sum that Mr. Ibori has stolen remains
unquantified. However, the sums that formed the subject of the two
indictments to which Ibori has pleaded guilty amount to approximately
Fifty Million Pounds”.
Yet, most news organizations said Ibori had pleaded guilty to stealing
350 million Pounds. The Guardian of London, which reported the 50
Pounds sum, added that Ibori “amassed a portfolio of six properties
outside Nigeria worth £6.9m at a time he was being paid £4,000 a
year as state governor of the Delta region.
“The properties in London included a flat in St John’s Wood, a house
in Hampstead, and one in Regent’s Park. He also had a £3m mansion
in South Africa and properties in Texas and in Dorset, near to where
his children attended private school.
“Ibori also bought a fleet of luxury cars, and in three years ran up
£920,000 on his American Express Centurion card – a card only
available to the super-rich, Was told the court. In 2005, Ibori
instructed a London solicitor to buy a private jet costing $20m”.
Now, on whether Ibori had other sources of income, may we jump to
page 14 of that same document, item 81, and dealing with MER
Engineering? “MER was a company that was incorporated in Nigeria in
1990. It built houseboats, which were rented out to oil workers in the
Delta. It was Ibori who was able to influence the contracts with
Chevron and Shell and the NNPC”
Item 83: “It was MER money that paid for the Ibori property in
Hampstead, Westover Hill: Count 5. Item 84, “It was MER money that
paid for the house Ibori bought in Houston Texas. Item 85, “it was
MER money that paid for the deposit for the $20 million Challenger Jet
airplane that Mr. Ibori was in the process of buying when his monies
were restrained by the UK courts”.
Weeks before Ibori was sentenced, EFCC arrested and questioned one
Dr. Babalakin on the charge that he helped Ibori launder money, using
the account of Babalakin’s company. EFCC said Ibori never tried to
buy a Challenger jet but was only helped to launder money by
pretending he was buying a jet. I replied that the EFCC was lying
because it had known for years that Ibori actually invested some
money in a registered air-charter company for a jet that would be used
commercially, but the world has been deceived that Ibori had bought,
or was in the process of buying, a private jet.
The aircraft investment made with MER Engineering funds appeared in
the Guardian of London and other papers, thus: “in 2005, Ibori
instructed a London solicitor to buy a private jet costing $20m”. Now,
which private jet was London MET Police talking about? Or did the
EFCC not arrest Babalakin on the allegation that he helped Ibori
launder money in the guise of buying a private jet? And didn’t the
same London Met Police state in court that Ibori had invested only
$4million on that aircraft – money from MER Engineering?
Adding the $4 million for the jet to the $6 million for the properties,
sums that came from MER Engineering, brings the entire sum to $10
million. If you make allowance for police exaggeration of property
costs, you would have a sum that is below $8 million. It is a huge
amount but it is nowhere near 50 or 250 million Pounds. And the
monies came from MER Engineering accounts.
Also, I don’t want to go into the amount of the travel and overnight
allowances that Ibori was paid during his eight-year tenure as
Governor. In fact I once reminded Olusegun Adeniyi, that he collected
allowances for trips with the late President Yar’Adua and especially for
that 2010 South African World Cup jamboree which he, among a “lean”
retinue of 500 officials costing Nigeria N314, 473,438. 22, attended.
Was the allowance for that trip part of his annual salary?
Sometimes I am tempted to disbelieve my eyes. On item 175 of the
same court document: “By the time he was into his second term of
office as Governor of Delta State, James Ibori had defrauded Delta
State of such large sums of money that he was planning to buy
himself a private jet aeroplane costing $20 million.” Is this not the
same plane for which Mr. Babalakin was arrested, and EFCC said he
was laundering money for Ibori in the guise of buying a plane? Item
183: “MER had an account at Barclays bank in Knightsbridge. The
Money went from the oil companies straight out of Nigeria and into
MER account in Barclays”. And that too is a crime?
Item 29: “Mr. Ibori used money defrauded from the people of Nigeria to
buy a property in Houston in Texas … “only to see in Item 84, “It was
MER money that paid for the house Ibori bought in Houston Texas’.
Ibori’s many sins for which he was convicted included this terribly
grave crime: Item 34: “In addition to his millionaire life style, Ibori
called himself “HIS EXCELLENCY”, a title not recognized by the
constitution”.
Also, Nuhu Ribadu accused the oil majors of helping Ibori launder
money over the same MER Engineering contracts, claiming that MER
Engineering had no contracts at all with those oil companies. And
such nonsense even found its way into the Financial Times of London
in September 2007 and the Saharareporters even published a story;
“How Ibori Bought A Private Jet”. Really, truth has been terribly
eclipsed in the Ibori media-lynching bid.
Tony Eluemunor is Chief James Ibori’s Media Assistant.

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