- Ibori governed a Nigerian oil state for eight years
- Convicted of laundering millions in Britain
- Ordered to pay now or face eight-year jail term
- Unclear if Nigeria will cooperate in enforcing order
LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) – Britain will seek to confiscate 101.5 million pounds ($130 million) from James Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor who abused his office to get rich and laundered millions in Britain and elsewhere, under a court order issued in London on Friday.
Ibori, who is in Nigeria, said he would appeal against the confiscation order, one of the largest imposed on an individual in recent British legal history.
“The next steps will be to take my fight for justice to the highest courts in the UK,” he said in a statement.
Ibori was governor of oil-producing Delta State from 1999 to 2007 and was extradited from Dubai to Britain in 2011. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering and received a 13-year jail sentence of which he served half, as is standard.
The case was hailed as a landmark in the fight against corruption in Britain, a global money-laundering hub, and in Nigeria, where self-enrichment by the ruling elite has been one of the main factors holding back development for decades.
Judge David Tomlinson, delivering the confiscation order at Southwark Crown Court, said Ibori should pay the sum immediately or face an eight-year jail sentence.
Spokespersons for Nigerian President Bola Tinubu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the Nigerian government would cooperate with the British authorities in enforcing the confiscation order.
Ibori remains well-connected in Nigeria. Tinubu, who took office in May, has hosted him twice at the presidential villa, along with other former governors. Ibori frequently mingles with the ruling elite, and has influence on Delta State politics.
The confiscation process took over a decade after Ibori’s conviction because of lengthy court delays and legal wrangling in London.
“The long and tortuous road to reach this point shows just how tough it is to recover the proceeds of corruption in the UK,” said Helen Taylor, Senior Legal Researcher at campaign group Spotlight on Corruption.
“To ensure justice delayed doesn’t mean justice denied for the Nigerian people, it’s essential that the UK now makes every effort to ensure the speedy return of this stolen loot to benefit the victims of Ibori’s corruption in Delta State,” she said.
Britain has pledged to return any funds recovered from Ibori to Nigeria. In 2021, it returned 4.2 million pounds that had been confiscated from Ibori’s ex-wife and his sister, who also served jail time for helping him.
($1 = 0.7788 pounds)
Additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja, Editing by William Maclean
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