Former governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori has vowed to appeal the latest United Kingdom (UK) forfeiture judgement against him saying that he was being persecuted by the British Judge.
The United Kingdom authorities had reportedly launched proceedings to seize more than £101.5 million from Ibori, who had pled guilty to money laundering charges and served a sentence.
Those knowledgeable about the case say that Ibori’s lawyers had advised him to plead guilty in possible exchange for a lesser sentence.
David Tomlinson, a judge at Southwark Crown Court said he has made “factual findings” about the funds and made a formal order on Friday to compel Ibori to refund a further £ 101.5 million.
Jonathan Kinnear, the senior prosecutor, told the court on Thursday that the total amount of money that should be confiscated from Ibori was £101.5 million.
The lawyer further informed the court that Ibori risks a fresh five to 10 years prison sentence should he fail to pay the money.
The judgement comes seven years after the former governor returned to Nigeria upon serving his time, has since maintained a low profile until his recent political resurgence following his old time friend, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s emergence as President of Nigeria.
His political foes, especially in his home state, Delta, have been reportedly shaken by his reemergence on the political stage, and are alleged to have sponsored a rash of negative media commentaries about him.
Reacting to the latest UK order, Ibori said Judge Tomilson’s ruling was difficult to understand and even harder to accept having believed that justice and fairness would triumph, hearing after hearing, through the years.
He said since 2005 the British Prosecutors had investigated his assets worldwide, have had a restraint order in place on most of those assets and they are well aware that the total monetary value of those assets is nowhere close to the sums that were the subject of the recent Court Order.
This is notwithstanding the fact that many of the assets are not and have never been owned by him, he said and cried foul against the judgement.
Said Ibori: “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the “definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
“If that is true then I must be going mad because in over a decade since the British Courts have been persecuting myself and those close to me, I kept believing that justice and fairness would eventually triumph.
“In hearing after hearing through the years, despite some of the most logic defying rulings against me- I still believed. Despite clear evidence of police corruption against the main officer in my case (evidence so strong that it caused the lead prosecutor to resign from my case), I still believed.
“Despite a clear victory in my 2013 confiscation hearing which left the Judge unable to make an order against me, only to have him rule that the prosecution should start the trial afresh some years later – I still believed.
“However, today’s ruling from Judge Tomlinson is difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. I have to move past the fact that the British Courts found themselves competent to sit in Judgment over contracts awarded in Delta State; contracts that were legitimately awarded and completed. I have come to accept my fate despite the inability of the British prosecutors to show any evidence whatsoever of monies defrauded or indeed missing from Delta State.
“Since 2005, the British Prosecutors have investigated my assets worldwide; they have had a restraint order in place on most of those assets and they are well aware that the total monetary value of those assets is nowhere close to the sums that were the subject of today’s Order.
“Not withstanding the fact that many of the assets are not and have never been owned by me – it seems that if you are my friend and you allowed me to spend some holiday time in your house, then by this order I now own your home and must ask you to sell it to satisfy the Order.
“The Order made today was to be paid immediately, this was made in the full knowledge that it could take many months to actually realise the sale of many of these assets.
“There is an eight year default sentence, which means that if I do not co-operate and pay nothing at all, then the prosecution can apply for the imposition of the default sentence. However as the prosecution already has a Restraint Order over the assets – the situation of my not co-operating or paying should not arise.
“However, an issue arises if my Restrained Assets are sold, and the total realised from the sale does not equal the amount in the Order, then the Prosecution can still apply for part of the default sentence to be applied, but they could only ask for a sliding scale reduction of the eight years default sentence based on the amounts that remain outstanding.
“If such an application were to be made it would be vigorously contested. In the normal course of events, any talk of a default sentence would normally be stayed until any outstanding Appeal has been concluded.
“The Judge, in this case, has appeared to have cast aside any pretence of impartiality and has made an Order which is both wholly unrealistic and unrealisable. He has completely disregarded any arguments, evidence or expert witnesses in my favour. It was apparent during these last two days that he has forgotten many of the important elements of the case which is unsurprising as it almost 2 years since the case concluded.
“It has taken him two years to write this Judgment and in the interim he has presided over hundreds of cases, but I refuse to make excuses for him.
“At this point in time words fail me and so the question for me as I take my case to the Court of Appeal, is, if I continue to believe that I may finally get some Justice, is this the definition of madness?
“I know one thing for sure, that if I do not go to the Court of Appeal to contest this outrageous Order the people will definitely say that I am a madman!” vanguard report.
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