By Leke Adeseri, News Editor & Emma Ovuakporie
LONDONâ€”A LONDON jury has found Ms. Udoamaka Onuigbo, the mistress of former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, guilty on a three-count charge of money laundering.
She was found guilty in counts 2, 3, and 4.
The jury in the Southwark Crown Court case number T20087009 finally agreed, yesterday morning, and passed a guilty verdict on Udoamaka, after having acquitted her on one of the charges.
However, Judge Christopher Hardy would, next Monday, sentence Christine Ibori-Ibie, who was convicted on Tuesday in the same trial and Udoamaka Onuigbo.
A Crown Court source told Vanguard: â€œUdoamaka and Christine have been remanded in prison.â€ But sources said the women were planning to appeal the ruling.
The 12-member jury deliberating on the money laundering trial of Iboriâ€™s associates, Tuesday,Â found his sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie, guilty of all charges of money laundering and mortgage fraud.
The jury, however, acquitted Iboriâ€™s former assistant, Adebimpe Pogoson, of the charges against her.
In the dock were Iboriâ€™s mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, his sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie, and his former personal aide, Bimpe Pogoson. Also facing legal trouble are Iboriâ€™s lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, and his wife, Theresa Nkoyo-Ibori.
At the Southwark Crown Court presided over by Justice Christopher Harding, the former governorâ€™s defence lawyers could not refute the prosecutionâ€™s argument that Ms. Okoronkwo â€œhandled paper work and transfer of fundsâ€ on behalf of Ibori using a company owned by the former governor in the UK Island of Guernsey.
The prosecution had earlier presented evidence to show that Iboriâ€™s sister, Christine, had, along with one Mr. Desar and two others, been used by Ibori to criminally acquire various properties in the UK.
Unable to discredit the evidence, Christine Iboriâ€™s defence team sought to argue that she was actually â€œhoodwinkedâ€ by the men into taking part in the criminal deals. Even so, the prosecution countered thatÂ there was no evidence that she was hoodwinked, and that â€œeven if Mr. Desar and others were less than scrupulous in their dealings, the very fact does not necessarily exonerate Christine Ibori since she had been proven to be part of the shady deals.â€
On Ms Okoronkwo, the prosecution and defence essentially agreed that she, among other things, handled the transfer of funds provided by James Ibori for the purchase of corporate vehicles for the Guernsey-based company, Zacon and Zetah.
Finding itself against the ropes, the defence team argued the technicality that Okoronkwo was not guilty of â€œmanagement of funds for the companyâ€ as stated in the prosecutionâ€™s opening statement, adding that in â€œCompany Lawâ€, â€œhandling paper workâ€ was not the same as management.
When the judge accepted the prosecutionâ€™s submission, the defence lawyers argued at length with him, insisting that the original indictment, on which the case had been conducted, was that of â€œmanagementâ€ rather than â€œhandling of criminal funds.â€
EFCC Chairman hails verdict
Meantime, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has hailed the verdict of the London Court that found Christine Ibori-Ibie guilty of all charges of money laundering and mortgage fraud.
Fielding questions from journalists in her office, Mrs. Waziri said: â€œI am delighted at the verdict but that is the United Kingdom where justice reigns and not Nigeria where such words as â€˜it is politically motivatedâ€™ or â€˜witch-huntâ€™ are frequently used. Just see how justice was dispatched, unlike here where there are endless adjournments.
â€œThe court process in Nigeria is endless and bails are given within 24 hours. There are cases I inherited that started in 2005 still pending in our courts, what can I do? I canâ€™t be the court and the judges at the same time.
â€œI have always advocated that we should have special courts to try corruption cases. We have such courts in Ghana. The corrupt have accepted that we all are victims of corruption both the rich and the poor in Nigeria.
â€œThose we are fighting sponsor all manners of stories in the internet and newspapers criticizing me and the new dimension now is direct attack on our men.”