By Moses Nosike
After three continuous days of unremitting tension-soaked court sessions, Chief James OnanefeIbori won a major victory this week at the Southwark Crown Court, London. The court ruled that the confiscation hearing against him, which was to start last Monday June 6, would wait until the conclusion of the investigation of corruption,and misleading the court, charges against the British Police and the Prosecution, in jailing the former Delta State Governor. Thus, the hunters have now officially become the hunted as the police officers that investigated Ibori would now have to prove they areinnocent of corruption charges and scandalous court-manipulation in a bid to ram-road Ibori into prison.
According to a statement signed by Ibori’s Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor, Ibori’s lead counsel, Mr. Ivan Krolic, (Queen’s Counsel, QC)threw a bombshell when he asked the court to halt proceedings because the investigation of corruption charges against the Police, which will end early August this year, may also prove that the Prosecution, having known of the corrupt and sharp practices, refused to disclose such evidences, but relied upon them, andfraudulently misled the court in securing Ibori’s conviction, thus desecrating the much-respected British legal system.
Judge David Tomlinson’s stout resistance to Ibori’sapplication led to a heated exchange with Ibori’s lawyer.Tomlinson: What do I tell the listing officer for not continuing with this proceeding; I need to get a grip of this. Mr.Ibori has been convicted nearly three years ago”. Krolic(cuts in): “Four years”. Tomlinson: “Mr.Ibori has been convicted nearly 4 years, when does the confiscation hearing start”?
Krolic: “This proceeding will start when the Crown completes its review into police corruption. I ask rhetorically, could the court continue with this confiscation hearing when there is an application on abuse of court process?We say the Crown Prosecution has manipulated this confiscation proceedings and Crown Prosecution Counsel made misleading statements and submissions. This hearing will not be fair unless the Review is completed and we know to what extent there has been intent to mislead the court and the extent of corruption leading to non-disclosure of materials againstIbori”.
Tomlinsom: “I know that your (Ibori’sdefence team) position has always been that this case be litigated sooner than later, you have always opposed the Crown on stay of proceeding.What I need to know is how is this case going to be affected by the review? I still don’t know where we are going”.
Krolic: “The review into the police corruption not only concerns the safety of the conviction but also of the non-disclosure of materials used against Ibori. The background is that the Prosecution had initially relied on Assumption 72AA of the Criminal Justice Act in only some of the charges only to turn around after three weeks of proceedings when the case had been closed and submission made by all parties, to inform the court that the Defence team had confused them and that they would now be seeking to apply Assumption 72AA across board.
“At the closing, the Crown claimed that they were confused and Judge, Anthony Pitts, said he was also confused and ordered the confiscation proceedings to start afresh permitting the Crown to apply Section 72AA across board. We say, they (Crown Prosecution) said to the Judge that they were confused and if the Court’s ruling was based on the intention by the Crown Prosecution to mislead the Court, we say that was an abuse of Court Process”.
Swayed by the appeal to the very concept of justice, the new lead Crown Prosecution Counsel, (the earlier one, ShashaWass as well as all others involved in investigating and prosecuting Ibori and his associates have since been dropped over charges of impropriety and corruption) Mr. Kinnear QC, interrupted the argument, saying: “I on behalf of the Crown have always said that in the interest of Justice that the case be adjourned until the conclusion of the Disclosure Review. Your Honour, we ask, is it in the interest of Justice that this matter be adjourned? Our response will be a resounding Yes. We can’t trample on the defendant’s right – in the interest of justice. Your Honour, the application to adjourn is an application this court must accede to in the interest of justice”.
With the Crown Prosecution siding with the Defence team, pleading nothing but “fairness and justice”the Judge’s iron resolve against Ibori’s application melted. He said”I am influenced by the submission of the Crown, I do therefore agree that this confiscation proceeding should therefore adjourn”.With that, Ibori won the day!
On the allegation of abuse of court process and the court’s being misled, the mainstream British media, from the BBC to the major newspapers such as the Sunday Times, Telegraph, Mirror and The Guardian have decried the Police corruption involved in the Ibori case and called for stringent investigation. They argued that the issues Iborilawyers raised touch on the very core of dispensing justice in Britain. Tomlinson even said this much: “Issues raised on behalf of Mr.Ibori is that Mr. Kinnear’s predecessor manipulated proceedings, that does appear to me that it is a discreet matter that I can’t allow to go away, that previous counsel either misled or manipulated the court to abort the proceeding”.
The investigation will be internal to the London Metropolitan Police, but the print and electronic media that called for it, are there to watch and ensure that nothing inappropriate is swept under the carpet. Even the British Parliament is watching the case as the members of its hallowed chambers have also discussed it.
Ibori’sstatement explained that the import of that Wednesday’s court victory is immense: If the Review into Disclosure and Police Corruption establishes the Defence allegations against the Police and Prosecution, it means the case is tainted and everything collapses. The key to this is when the Police knew about the corrupt acts now being investigated, because they were clear even by 2012. Oraccording to the Reuters report of Monday June 6 proceedings, “Ibori’s conviction … is now being called into question by his defence team, Judge David Tomlinson told Southwark Crown Court”.