BRITAIN has agreed to return to Nigeria £4.2m of the loot former Delta State governor Chief James Ibori stole from the country and stashed away in London banks as part of a staggered repatriation plan.
Chief Ibori, who admitted to stealing more than $250m was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and corruption. He has since served his term and has returned to Nigeria where he remains among the power brokers in Delta State but the court is yet to determine what happens to his UK assets.
Prosecutors from the London Metropolitan Police found that Chief Ibori used the money he stole from Delta State to buy six houses in London. He paid £2.2m in cash for one of those mansions in Hampstead and he also bought a £13m jet, a £600,000 fleet of Range Rovers, and a £120,000 Bentley.
Chief Ibori also put his children in expensive British private schools while sharing the stolen funds with his wife, sister and mistress. A known pilferer when he worked at departmental store Wickes, Chief Ibori is desperately trying to retain some of the properties, claiming he acquired them legitimately.
However, the British government has decided to at least return the cash they know he stole and have seized in instalments. Catriona Laing, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, said that the $42m would be the first tranche of such planned returns.
She added that what is currently being returned were retrieved from friends and family members of Chief Ibori. According to Ms Laing, the Ibori case is complicated and the United Kingdom authorities were still working on the total actual amount involved in the matter.
Speaking in Abuja at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Nigeria and the UK, Ms Laing assured that more of such recoveries from the Ibori case would be returned to Nigeria in due course. Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney-general who signed the MoU on behalf of the country, said that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the returned loot be deployed to completion of the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-to-Ibadan express way and the Abuja-to-Kano expressway projects.