Former governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori has completed his prison terms in the United Kingdom. But he is yet to be a free man, as he was immediately re-arrested.
It was learnt that Ibori who was jailed 13 years in April 2012 by a Southwark Crown court in London was released by prison authorities on 22 January. He was released from Her Majesty’s Prison in Bedford, outside of London, where he finished his prison term. He initially served at the Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire.
“He is out of here”, a prison source at Bedford confirmed on Tuesday night. Our sources said Ibori was re-arrested to face another charge, which borders on the confiscation of his ill-gotten assets, estimated to be about 250 million pounds. The case initially billed for May, will now come up in June, sources told us this afternoon. We cannot however confirm Ibori’s new prison address.
Fifty-seven year old Ibori was jailed for using UK financial institutions to launder hundreds of millions of pound sterling he stole from public funds while he was the governor of Delta State. His journey to jail began with his arrest On 13 May 2010 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates under Interpol arrest warrants, issued from United Kingdom courts and enacted by the Metropolitan Police.
He had earlier made a mockery of Nigeria’s legal system, walking away free from the multi-billion fraud charge levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, including the $15 million bribe he offered the then EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
Ibori’s case and extradition became one of the longest, most complex and expensive operations mounted by Scotland Yard in recent years.
Prosecutors alleged that companies owned by Ibori and his family were beneficiaries from the sale of state assets, including shares in Econet, a GSM telephone operator, as well as crude oil deliveries.
Before his conviction, UK juries two years earlier found James Ibori’s sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori and his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, guilty on counts of money laundering, in a verdict delivered at the Southwark Crown Court, London.
On 27 February 2012, Ibori himself was docked, accused of stealing US$250 million from the Nigerian public purse. He pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. Among possessions confiscated were a house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2million, a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset for £311,000, A £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg South Africa , a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000,a £120,000 Bentley Continental GT, A Mercedes-Benz Maybach bought for €407,000 cash, that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa
After the sentencing hearing, Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said it would bid to confiscate the assets Ibori had acquired his riches “at the expense of the some of the poorest people in the world. Also jailed with him apart from his sister and mistress were his wife, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori, his lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil and his financial advisors, Daniel McCann and Lambertus De Boer.
While in prison, Ibori continued to exercise a lot of influence on the politics of his Delta state, with the present governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, regarded as one of his disciples. Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, two term governor of the state, who succeeded him in 2007 is his cousin.
Born in Oghara, 57 years ago, the young James Onanefe Ibori was educated at Baptist High school, now Oghareki Grammar School. From there, he went to the University of Benin, where he studied economics and statistics. After his university education, he moved to the United Kingdom, where he worked at Wickes DIY, married his wife, Theresa and tainted his record with two convictions for theft and credit card fraud, that were to later haunt his political career in Nigeria.
He became governor of Delta state in 1999 and held forte for eight years.