Jul 25 2012
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Federal Government, yesterday, approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, asking it to order the immediate forfeiture of $15 million allegedly given to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, by the jailed former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, as bribe.
Federal Government, via an ex-parte originating summons it filed in court, yesterday, said the cash was received by officers of the EFCC from an undisclosed agent of the ex-governor in 2007, as a bribe to compromise his investigation.It told thecourt that the commission under its former Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, deposited the money into the strong room No 1 of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on April 26, 2007, stressing that Ibori has since denied giving the cash to either the EFCC or any of its officers.
Consequently, Federal Government, alongside the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC, which were listed in the suit as the 1st to 3rd applicants respectively, yesterday, beseeched the court for “an interim order forfeiting the sum of $15,000, 000 (Fifteen million dollars) being an unclaimed property in possession of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the publication and hearing of the motion on notice for the final forfeiture order of the said property.”
As well as, “an order of this honourable court directing the publication in any national newspaper of the interim order under relief one above, for anyone who is interested in the property, to appear before this honourable court to show cause within 14 days, why the final order of forfeiture should not be made in favour of Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Meantime, CBN was listed as the only defendant in the application which was filed pursuant to section 17 (1) (2) (3) and (4) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.
After listening to legal submissions by EFCC lead prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who represented all the applicants, yesterday, Justice Gabriel Kolawole maintained that if by September 17, 2012, no one showed up to lay claim to the money, the $15 million bribe would be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Besides, in a 14 paragraphed affidavit deposed by one Bello Yahaya who was one of the investigators assigned by the EFCC to investigate the criminal case against Ibori, he told the court that: “while the investigation was going on, on 25th April, 2007, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the then Executive Chairman of the EFCC called the investigation team headed by Mr Ibrahim Lamorde the then Director of Operations, to pick up cash in the sum of USD 15, 000, 000. 00 (Fifteen Million Dollars) given to him and the Commission through an undisclosed agent of the said James Ibori.
“That upon picking up the said USD 15, 000, 000. 00 (Fifteen Million Dollars) we deposited same on 26th April, 2007 with the Central Bank of Nigeria which was duly acknowledged and signed for by one M.M El-Yallud, a staff working in strong room 1 of the CBN.
“That from the said 26th April, 2007, the money remained in the custody of the CBN till date. The issue of giving bribe was raised by me in my affidavit sworn to on 9th January 2008 in opposition to James Ibori’s bail application when he was eventually charged to court for Money Laundering Offences.
“James Ibori denied through his reply to counter affidavit dated 10th January, 2008, of giving the sum of USD 15, 000, 000. 00 (Fifteen Million Dollars), to EFCC or its officials. That ever since April, 2007, no one has claimed ownership of the said sum and it has since remained unclaimed money in the strong room of the CBN.
“That the said sum if left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the strong room since April, 2007, may eventually be destroyed, defaced, mutilated and become useless.
“That it is in the interest of justice to, in the interim, make an order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria and allow publication to be made in the National Newspaper to alert any interested member of the public to come out within 14 days to show their interest, failure to which this honourable court will make an order of final forfeiture in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“That the EFCC is ready to abide by the order that this honourable court will eventually make. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application,” he added.
It would be recalled that Ibori, 49, who was Governor of oil-rich Delta State between 1999 and 2007, was sentenced by a Southwark Crown Court in London for 13 years following his alleged complicity in a $250 million fraud while he was in power.
Scotland Yard maintained that during his two terms as Governor, Ibori, “systematically stole funds from the public purse, secreting them in bank accounts across the world,” in a fraud worth $250 million.
Earlier in February this year, Ibori had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, five of money laundering and one of obtaining a property transfer by deception.
He also admitted conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a $37-million share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company V Mobile.
…US court seizes Ibori’s $3m assets
The United States Department of Justice has secured a restraining order against more than $3 million looted funds and a mansion in Houston, Texas owned by former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, in the US.
Ibori is currently serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom for corruption and money laundering.
The department got the powers through an application filed under seal on May 16, 2012, in US District Court in the District of Columbia, to register and enforce two orders from United Kingdom courts against more than $3 million in corruption proceeds related to Ibori.
This was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton in a statement on the U.SDOJ website, yesterday.
According to the statement, “the application, which was filed under seal on May 16, 2012, in US District Court in the District of Columbia, seeks to restrain assets belonging to Ibori and Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s former English solicitor, that are proceeds of corruption.
“Specifically, it seeks to restrain a mansion in Houston and two Merrill Lynch brokerage accounts. US District Judge Lamberth granted the application and issued a restraining order under seal on May 21, 2012.
“The department was notified today (yesterday) that its application to unseal the restraining order was granted.
“The United States is working with the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service to forfeit these corruption proceeds,” it said.
According to the application, Ibori served as the governor of Delta State from 1999 to 2007, and misappropriated millions of dollars in Delta State funds.
Ibori was convicted in the UK of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced by a British court on April 18, 2012, to 13 years in prison.
Gohil was also convicted in November 2010 of money laundering and prejudicing a money laundering investigation and was sentenced by a British court to 10 years in prison.
“Instead of working to benefit the people of the Nigerian Delta, Governor Ibori pilfered state funds and accumulated immense wealth in the process,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.
“He conspired with Mr. Gohil to funnel millions of dollars in corruption proceeds out of Nigeria and into bank accounts and assets maintained in the names of shell companies and nominees.
“Through the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, our message is clear: the United States will not be used as a safe haven for the ill-gotten gains of corrupt foreign officials.
“This serves as a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the U.S. financial system,” said ICE Director Morton.
“ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section to investigate and prosecute those involved in such illicit activities and hold corrupt foreign officials accountable by denying them the satisfaction of their illegal earnings.”
The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Woo S. Lee and Elizabeth Aloi of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
“The case was investigated by ICE HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, HSI Asset Identification and Removal Group in Miami and HSI Attaché London.
This case is part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
“This initiative is carried out by a dedicated team of prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Asset
Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and where appropriate return those proceeds to benefit those harmed.
“Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through institutions in the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to email@example.com.
“ICE HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group in Miami targets corrupt foreign officials around the world that attempt to utilise U.S financial institutions to launder illicit funds.
“The group conducts investigations into the laundering of proceeds emanating from foreign public corruption, bribery or embezzlement.
“The objective is to prevent foreign derived ill-gotten gains from entering the U.S financial infrastructure, to seize identified assets in the United States and repatriate these funds on behalf of those affected by foreign official corruption,” the statement added.
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