James Ibori, Center, Spotted at An Event with Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa
LONDON––An ex-Nigerian politician, James Ibori, who has spent dozens of years in UK jails after accepting a guilty plea to laundering a stolen fortune in Britain, launched an appeal against his conviction on Wednesday, alleging corruption in the ranks of British pol.
About 90 million pounds ($130 million) of Ibori’s assets have been frozen for years and the British authorities seek to confiscate and return them to Nigeria, but if Ibori’s conviction is overturned he would regain control of them.
As governor of oil-producing Delta State from 1999 to 2007, Ibori became one of Nigeria’s most powerful politicians and enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle, with properties and luxury cars in several countries.
During the time of his arrest, he was in the process of buying a $20 million private jet. His sudden conviction in 2012, after admitting to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering, was a rare instance of a big and powerful politician in Nigerian politics being held to account for the corruption that has ruined Africa’s most populous country.
At stake is an allegation from Ibori’s lawyers, that one of the British police officers who investigated him took bribes in 2007 from a private detective, hired by a British law firm working for Ibori, in return for inside information about the police investigation.
The lawyers also alleged that British anti-corruption police charged with investigating the alleged bribery instead covered it up to avoid sinking Ibori’s trial and tarnishing the reputation of the police.
Meanwhile, all the people accused by Ibori’s lawyers have denied them. The appeal hearing, due to last for three days, are being held before three judges at London’s Court of Appeal.
Ibori returned to Nigeria in February 2017 after serving half of his 13-year sentence, as is normal in Britain. He was released from jail in December 2016.
Eyewitnesses say he has re-emerged in public life in Nigeria and been feted at various events.
Ibori was due to give evidence to the court on Wednesday via video-link from Nigeria, and he appeared briefly on a screen in court, but the connection was lost and could not be restored. The court was told a power cut in Nigeria was the reason for the glitch.
Despite being a major oil and gas producer, Nigeria has daily electricity cuts – a result of decades of corruption and mismanagement in the power sector.
The judges instructed that a new attempt is made to establish a video-link to Ibori on Thursday.