By Clifford Ndujihe, Emman Ovuakporie, with agency reports
LAGOS—CERTAINLY, these are not the best of times for former two-time Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. A United Arab Emirates, UAE Court of Appeal in Dubai, Sunday, ruled that he be extradited to Britain to face trials for allegedly looting the treasury of the state during his tenure.
This was just as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, described the Dubai Court ruling as a landmark judgment.
Ibori was also accused of laundering his alleged loot through several British banks, using lawyers, relatives and close associates.
The UAE court judgment followed evidence-laden request from Britain, supported by Nigeria. Sources close to the ex-governor said he would appeal the verdict, stressing that he has 30 days to file and receive an appellate judgment at the UAE Supreme Court.
An online publication said the Dubai Court, in a two-to-one split decision, held that Britain had shown enough reason to tie Ibori to the commission of a crime to warrant his extradition to London.
The Dubai legal system has three main stages: The Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation. The Ibori case started at the Court of Appeal, and is expected to go the Superior Court of Cassation before it is concluded.
Avalanche of evidence
The case took so long because the UK Metropolitan police had to translate an avalanche of evidence and affidavits to make a solid case about Ibori’s culpability in money laundering and thus made a strong application for his extradition to London.
The UK police also made references to the successful trial of two female associates of Ibori in London which has so far led to the jailing of Ibori’s sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie, and his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo (nee Onuigbo) for money laundering.
Both women are serving prison terms at the all-female Holloway prison in London.
In 2007, a UK court froze assets allegedly belonging to Ibori worth $35m (£21m). His annual salary was less than $25,000.
He had already left the UK when his assets were seized. He was first arrested in Nigeria in December 2007. And in 2009, a court in Asaba cleared him of 170 charges of corruption, saying there was no clear evidence to convict him, sparking the anger of the EFCC.
Ibori was arrested in Dubai on May 13, 2010. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accused him of stealing $290 million, about N43.5 billion. Last April, his supporters attacked the police who tried to arrest him in his home town. He thereafter left for Dubai where he was arrested.
Ibori’s wife, Theresa Nkoyo, and one of his UK_based lawyers, Bhadresh Gohil, are also currently facing trial in a London court.
EFCC says it’s landmark judgment
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has described the Dubai Court ruling which declared that former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori should be extradited to the United Kingdom to face corruption charges as a landmark judgment.
In a telephone chat, yesterday, spokesman of the anti_graft agency, Mr. Femi Babafemi said: “The Dubai court ruling is not unexpected in view of the weight of evidence provided by the EFCC, to support the process filed by the UK Met police.
“This is also an affirmation of the fact that justice is universal and can be served in any part of the world without hindrances.”
The former governor was said to have appealed against the judgment to the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirate.