A United Kingdom court yesterday ordered a retrial of assets confiscation case against former Governor James Ibori of Delta State to enable the prosecution gather enough evidence.
The London Metropolitan Police which is prosecuting the former governor had admitted in open court on the last day of the hearing that they lacked enough evidence to support allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering against Ibori.
The trial judge, Mr Anthony Pitts, therefore granted the Crown Prosecution’s request and adjourned for a retrial after both the prosecution and defence have made their final submissions in the hearing which was supposed to end yesterday.
Reacting to Judge Anthony Pitts’ judgment, James Ibori said “after eight years of criminal investigations, five adjournments and over 50 trips to Nigeria, the prosecution failed to provide any tangible evidence to support their claim that I defrauded Delta State.
Their case collapsed to such an extent that on the very last day of a three weeks hearing, they were humbled into making an application to the judge for permission to start again which the Judge unceremoniously granted”.
Judge Pitts acceding to the request of the prosecution and adjourned for retrial. Judge Pitts said: “I feel that this case inevitably requires decision that is probably based on proper evidence. This matter must proceed in a way to make proper decision….it seems to me to hear some more evidence.”
Giving the crown prosecution the green light to go for more evidence to support their confiscation claim, Judge Pitts said: “I need to be in a much better position more than I am now to make a better decision. I am going to adjourn this proceedings till early next year.”
As the confiscation hearing opened yesterday, Ibori’s lead counsel Mr. Ivan Krolic, as part of his skeletal legal argument against the background of Ibori’s guilty plea during the trial said “the making of confiscation determinations is governed by different procedural requirement from trial procedures and different standard of proof is to be applied.”
Krolic cited many authorities to support his case that a guilty plea in confiscation does not mean that the defendant has the full benefits of the guilt. He submitted that “the burden lies on the prosecution to prove to what extent the defendant has benefitted from the offence and in this case, we are relying on the prosecution’s own evidence that is set out in section 73 as provided in their often trumpeted 63,000 pages of evidence before this court from the start of this proceedings.”
Relying on the authority of the case of Mcintosh and Rezvi 2010 Krolic said “the court held in paragraph 22 that a plea of guilty did not amount to an admission from which a conclusive inferences can be drawn pursuant to section 10CJA 1967.
Where the defendant has pleaded guilty, it is important for the prosecution to prove their case, I have shown you that what the prosecution has put forward in their 63,000 pages trial bundle is not supported by any iota of evidence.”
The lead Crown prosecutor Sasha Wass, in her arguments said “your honour we will ask that these proceedings are brought to a halt and list it for another hearing so that we may call more witnesses.”
Krolick not satisfied with the prosecution’s request for a halt of the court proceedings and allow for a retrial, urged the Judge to hear the case to the end and give judgement based on the submissions made by both the prosecution and the defence.
He said: “We do not say that the conviction should go, we do not attack the conviction, we are only concerned by what has been obtained by Mr. Ibori in connection to the charge. Trying to persuade the Judge not to adjourn for retrial as being pushed for by the prosecution having found out that they do not have the evidence to back up their confiscation claim.”
Krolick said: “We are not even suggesting that witnesses are required…we are only saying that Ibori did not obtain what he has been accused of obtaining and that it is now crystal clear that the prosecution do not have evidence to link funds from Delta State to him and that the court should make its decision on that basis.”
James Ibori’s lead counsel’s subtle persuasion could not persuade Judge Anthony Pitts against granting the prosecution’s request for adjournment and retrial to call more evidences against Ibori. The court therefore adjourned till December 19, 2013, for preliminary direction of the confiscation proceeding – preparatory for a totally fresh trial.