JAMES Ibori’s lawyer Bhadresh Gohil looks set to forfeit $39m to the UK authorities after he appeared in a London high court confiscation heating where he was described as the architect of the former governor’s corruption scam.
Last Thursday, Mr Gohil, who convicted for his role in the Ibori corruption case appeared in a confiscation hearing where the prosecution claimed he helped the former Delta State governor launder government funds. Chief James Ibori was convicted by a UK court in 2012 after pleading guilty to fraud and money laundering and jailed for 13 years.
Mr Gohil, who helped him siphon money was also convicted in 2010 on a 13-count charge of money laundering and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At the trial, the judge who convicted Mr Gohil described him as the architect of the scheme, adding that it is said the real villains are in Nigeria but this fraud required special expertise and he lent himself to it.
While acting as Chief Ibori’s lawyer, Mr Gohil helped him buy assets such as an English country house and a $20m private jet, although the police caught up with them before the jet was delivered. Mr Gohil masterminded the operation in which about $37m was stolen from Delta State through the charging of fake consultancy fees in connection with the sale of its stakes in a telecoms company, V-Mobile.
Jonathan Kinnear, the lead prosecutor in the case against Mr Gohil, laid out before the judge at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Thursday what he said was the lawyer’s criminal benefit. A case for the confiscation of £117.7m was opened against Chief Ibori in the same court in January, although the judge is yet to make any pronouncement in that case.
A confiscation order has already been given in another case connected to the Ibori case. In September 2019, Judge David Tomlinson of Southwark Crown Court ordered a former Goldman Sachs banker Ellias Nimoh Preko to pay £7.3m.
Mr Preko was sentenced to four and half years in prison in 2013 for his role in laundering $4m for Chief Ibori. In a twist to Mr Gohil’s case, he was paid £200, 000 by UK’s Crown Prosecution Services after winning a case the police for unlawful detention for 33 days between 20 November and 22 December 2015.