As the sentencing of former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, commenced on Monday at the Southwark Crown Court 9, London, the prosecutor, Sasha Weils, told the court in her closing argument that Ibori was “a common thief.”
Weils told the court of how Ibori “systematically and deliberately defrauded his people during his tenure as governor of the oil-rich Delta State.”
“The amount James Ibori stole is unquantified. He is a common thief,” the prosecutor said.
After going through a reading of all the crimes Ibori committed since 1991, both in Nigeria and in the UK, Weils concluded that the magnitude of fraud perpetrated by Ibori would never be known.
The Prosecutor listed Ibori’s bank accounts as “6 in Barclay’s, 2 in Citi Bank and several in the Channel Islands”.
She added that “Ibori had made his four-month old son a director in one of his companies, a company used as a conduit to launder stolen money.”
The prosecution, also said he violated Section 182 and Section 181 (1) of the Nigerian constitution when he contested the governorship election less than 10years after he was jailed in the United Kingdom. Ibori was jailed in 1991 and 1992 in London.
Judge Anthony Pitts described Ibori’s several frauds as “sensational” and called for a recess soon after.
“It says on the details it’s ‘simply sensational.’ I’m inclined to agree with them,” he said.
When the court reconvened by 2pm, his defence counsel, Nicholas Pernell, prayed for a lenient sentence, blaming the Nigerian military for creating the conditions that lured Ibori into corruption.
In an attempt to secure a lenient sentencing for Ibori, his has lawyer just told the Crown Court that he was instrumental in securing the release of hostages in the Niger-Delta.
Judge Pitts, however, told Ibori’s counsel that he has not been called upon to make a judgment of Ibori’s achievements as governor as argued by his counsel but to make a judgment on the charges of corruption against him.
Supporters reportedly hired and transported by the Delta State Government reportedly caused disturbance at the sentencing, which necessitated the London Metropolitan policemen removing them from the court.
The court had invited uniformed policemen to sort out Ibori’s supporters , which led to the rowdy standoff, Saharareporters reports.
The policemen and court officials attempted to control the crowd of Ibori’s supporters and journalists who wanted to gain access into the court.
All visitors were reportedly asked to to form a queue and write their names. But it led to more confusion as people struggled to get their names on a list.
The embattled former governor’s supporters were said to have insisted on gaining access to the courtroom, which could sit only a few people.
In the course of attempting to force their way into the courtroom, a staff of the court was said to have been pushed to the ground.
The police were said to have later allowed only 16 members of Ibori’s family and journalists to enter the court.
The hearing began at about 11.19am after James Ibori was brought in and the Judge came in to the court.
Ibori was brought into court at 11.15am wearing a grey suit, black tie and vest and was docked in a glass-covered cubicle.
He was said to be beaming with confidence.
Ibor’s sentencing has been shifted till Tuesday, April 17.
James Ibori had earlier pleaded guilty to a number of corruption and money laundering charges against him put at about $250m before Judge Pitts. This includes the V-Mobile and Bombardaire scams which amounted to $50m. Ibori and Victor Attah, former Akwa Ibom state governor also formed a phantom company called ADF to siphon US$37.5m from Delta and Akwa Ibom states’ shares in V-Mobile.