How did he go from a governor in Nigeria to a jail cell in the UK? Why was he released? Here are some facts you did not know about James Ibori, the man loved and hated by many people.
James Ibori prison sentence and release
James Ibori’s troubles started when some of his kinsmen filed allegations of fraud against him to the then Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
However, Nuhu Ribadu failed to act, which led to an uproar. In 2007, acting on many reports received, the Metropolitan Police raided the London offices of a lawyer named Bhadresh Gohil.
They found computer hard drives containing details of a myriad off-shore companies, run for Ibori by Gohil, fiduciary agent Daniel Benedict McCann, and corporate financier Lambertus De Boer.
The three men were jailed for 30 years. But Ibori denied any involvement and accused, Nuhu Ribadu and the UK courts of politically motivated witch-hunting.
2. The hunt
The UK authorities were unwilling to let the matter go, so in August 2007, Ibori’s assets to the tune of about $35 million were frozen and his wife, Nkoyo Ibori was arrested in Novemer 2007 and questioned in London. She was later released.
The London police kept his assets frozen because he could not explain how on a salary of less than $25,000 as governor, he had $35 million in his account.
3. Arrest and release in Nigeria
On December 12, 2007, he was arrested by the EFCC at the Kwara state lodge in Asokoro, Abuja. The commission brought the following charges against him: theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering.
Nuhu Ribadu alleged that Ibori had tried to bribe him with a cash gift of $15 million, which Ribadu immediately lodged in the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN. Reports have it that the money remains in the CBN as an exhibit.
However, in December 2009, a federal high court sitting in Asaba, Delta state, discharged and acquitted Ibori of all the 170 charges of corruption brought against him by EFCC.
4. Ibori goes on the run
In 2010, his sins came after hin and Ibori ran. Three months after Goodluck Jonathan became president, Ibori was accused of embezzling N40 billion, the governor of CBN later said that he had used Delta state as collateral for N40 billion loan.
Attempts to arrest him were unsuccessful. He reportedly fled from Abuja to Lagos and then to the creeks of Oghara, his homeland in the Niger Delta.
There were rumors that he was guarded by militants who shot at government security forces. He denied these charges.
In April 2010, he fled Nigeria, prompting the EFCC to request the assistance of Interpol.
5. Arrested and detained
An international arrest warrant was issued by the United Kingdom and enforced by Interpol and eventually Ibori was arrested on May 13, 2010 in Dubai.
He was granted bail, but as the United Kingdom were seeking his extradition, the United Arab Emirates kept his movements restricted.
He fought the extradition and fought for political asylum in Dubai. However this was not granted and he was eventually extradited to the UK in 2012.
6. Eventual sentencing and release
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, after 5 years of running, James Ibori was sentenced to 13 years by Southwark Crown Court for his crimes. His houses, luxury cars and other properties were confiscated.
The judge ruled that he was expected to spend half of the jail term which is six and half years. Also, the 645 days he had spent in detention facilities both in Dubai and UK were deducted from the sentence.
He served out his prison sentence and was released at about 12 noon on December 21, 2016. There are several speculations as to if he will return home to Nigeria.