By MICHAEL EBOH
Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori’s attempt to have his sentence reduced was dismissed by a London court, yesterday, saying that Ibori’s appeal lacked merit.
Two justices of the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London dismissed Ibori’s appeal, thereby affirming the 13 year prison term handed the former governor for money laundering, stealing and embezzling of $250 million belonging to Delta State between 1999 and 2007.
Ibori who was not present at the court, was April last year sentenced to 13 years in prison by the Southwark Crown Court in London for his role in the embezzlement of about $250 million of Delta State’s funds. His supporters, however, thronged the court premises, calling for his freedom.
Scotland Yard declared that during his two terms as governor, Ibori “systematically stole funds from the public purse, secreting them in bank accounts across the world”
Ibori had in February last year, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to money laundering and obtaining a property transfer by deception.
He also admitted to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a $37 million share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company, V-Mobile.
“Ibori deliberately and systematically defrauded the people whose interests he had been elected to represent”, said Sue Patten, head of Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group.
Also speaking, Britain’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said, “Corruption was a cancer in the developing world and the sentence sent a strong message to people eying Britain as a refuge for their crimes.
“We are committed to rooting out corruption wherever it is undermining development, and we will help bring its perpetrators like Ibori to justice and return stolen funds to help the world’s poorest.”
He was arrested in 2010 in Dubai and then extradited to London for trial but as his trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court was about to begin, Chief Ibori changed his plea to guilty and admitted stealing money from Delta State and laundering it in London through a number of offshore companies.
Following Mr Ibori’s plea, the Metropolitan Police spokesman, Paul Whatmore told the court that: “We will now be actively seeking the confiscation of all of his stolen assets so they can be repatriated for the benefit of the people of Delta State.”
Prosecutor Sasha Wass described Ibori’s tenure as governor of Delta State as a time of wide-scale theft, fraud and corruption.
Wass further told the court that Ibori, 53, allegedly gave a false date of birth and claimed he had no criminal record before he was elected governor of Delta State.
Among other crimes, Ibori was said to have admitted that he had conspired with others to pocket $37 million that should have gone into Delta State coffers from the sale of shares it owned in V Mobile telecoms company.
Britain’s Department for International Development, DFID, said funds recovered through the confiscation of Ibori’s assets would be given back to the people of Delta.
“Ibori lived a life of luxury after he embezzled what the police estimate to be $250 million of public funds – equal to $38 from every person living in the state at the time of his crimes,” the department said after the court hearing.
Ibori was convicted alongside his wife, Theresa; his sister, Christine; his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and his London solicitor, Bhadresh Gohil.