UK set to return James Ibori’s £4.2M loot, warn other looters

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The United Kingdom has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to return the sum of £4.2 million of stolen assets by Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing who announced this at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Justice in Abuja said the money was recovered from friends and family members of the former Delta State governor.

Laing said the habit of siphoning money from Nigeria to the UK has affected the level of trust between the two countries noting that Ibori case is complicated and the United Kingdom authorities were still working on the total actual amount involved in the case. Laing, however, warned that the UK will no longer be used as a destination for looters to siphon proceeds of crimes.

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who signed for the country, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the returned loots be deployed to completion of the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos to Ibadan express way and the Abuja to Kano express way projects.

He said, “I wish to remark that today’s ceremony and the recoveries attached thereto has again underscored the fact that international cooperation and mutual trust can yield great benefits for the citizenry in developing countries who are the direct victims of acts of corruption.

“Hence, the governments of Nigeria and the United Kingdom have concluded negotiations for the return of £4.2m to Nigeria pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding earlier executed by the two governments in 2016.

“It is to be recalled that the Nigerian government had all along provided the required mutual assistance and backup to the British authorities while the prosecution of James Ibori lasted in London and today, we are rightfully taking benefit of that cooperation.”

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He said in consonance with existing framework in the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council had directed that the instant repatriated funds should be deployed towards the completion of the following legacy projects: the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano expressway and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority to ensure integrity of the process.

The attorney-general said a reputable Civil Society Organization had been engaged to monitor and supervise the expenditure of the recovered funds on the execution of these critical projects which are evenly spread across the country.

“We have established, as a government, a reputation of transparency and accountability of utilization of recovered assets as a nation. These assets will in no way be different in terms of application,” he said.

Ibori, who ruled Delta State from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years in jail after admitting fraud of nearly £50m (N26.3bn), even though prosecutors say the actual amount stolen was about £250m (N131.7bn).

The former governor of Delta state pleaded guilty to 10 offenses relating to conspiracy to launder funds from the state, substantive counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining money transfer by deception and fraud.

He was released in 2016 after serving a fraction of his term.