In a major development, a London court is on the verge of issuing a confiscation order totaling more than 100 million pounds ($129 million) from James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State, as revealed by state prosecutors during a court session on Thursday.
James Ibori was extradited from Dubai to London in 2011, where he faced charges related to laundering a fortune acquired through corrupt means. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering and was handed a 13-year prison sentence, which was hailed by Britain as a significant milestone in the fight against corruption.
After a prolonged legal battle spanning over a decade, efforts by prosecutors to seize funds believed to be proceeds of Ibori’s criminal activities seem close to reaching a conclusion.
Judge David Tomlinson of Southwark Crown Court has already made factual findings regarding the funds in question. During Thursday’s hearing, both the prosecution and defense presented their arguments on how the confiscation amount should be calculated, taking into account the judge’s findings.
The final order is expected to be formally issued by Judge Tomlinson on Friday or shortly after. According to lead prosecution counsel Jonathan Kinnear, the total amount to be confiscated from Ibori is 101.5 million pounds, and failure to comply could result in a five to ten-year prison sentence.
Having served half of his prison sentence, Ibori returned to Nigeria in 2017 and did not attend the recent court hearing. He informed Reuters via text message that he intends to appeal against the confiscation order.
Despite his imprisonment, Ibori retains significant influence and connections in Nigerian politics. President Bola Tinubu, who assumed office in May, has welcomed Ibori twice to the presidential villa, along with other former governors.
In a positive step, Britain has committed to repatriating any funds recovered from Ibori back to Nigeria. In 2021, the country returned 4.2 million pounds that had been confiscated from Ibori’s ex-wife and sister, both of whom had served prison sentences for aiding him in money laundering activities.