FORMER Delta State governor Chief James Ibori had forfeited $5.8m (£4.2m) of the cash he looted from the state’s treasury after the UK authorities activated a confiscation order instituted against him.
In 2012, Chief Ibori was convicted of money laundering in the UK and sentenced to 13 years in jail but was released in 2016 and has since returned to Nigeria. During his trial, prosecutors say he stole an estimated $165m (£117m) from Delta State and observers expect more money to be retrieved from him as the case continues.
Apart from the recovered cash, a Bombardier Challenger jet is among the items listed in court documents for a confiscation order against Chief Ibori. So far, £4.2m has been recovered from his wife, sister and fiduciary agent, who were also convicted of money laundering.
British police began to take an interest in Ibori again in 2005 after they came across a purchase order for a private jet, made through his solicitor in London. Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney-general hailed the return of the loot as a demonstration of the recognition of reputation Nigeria earns for managing recovered money.
Chief Ibori who lived in Britain for many years, went to the UK in the 1980s and worked as a cashier at a DIY shop in London. He was convicted in 1991 for stealing from the store but then returned to Nigeria and got involved in politics.
When he ran for Delta State governor, he lied about his date of birth to hide his UK conviction which would have prevented him standing for office. He became governor in 1999 and soon began taking money from state coffers. leading to his conviction on 10 counts of fraud worth a total of nearly £50m in 2012.
He evaded capture in Nigeria after a mob of supporters attacked police but was eventually arrested in Dubai in 2010 and extradited to the UK. In 2020 prosecutors in a UK court asked a judge to make a confiscation order against Chief Ibori of £117.7m.
Court documents list several bank accounts owned by Chief Ibori, as well as more than 10 properties around the world, ranging from flats on London’s famous Abbey Road to a £5m mansion in Abuja. Also, the documents list a Bentley car and a Bombardier Challenger jet valued at just under £17m.
In March, the UK authorities announced that the seized money would be used to contribute towards building the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano Road. However, critics argued that this money should have specifically gone to people of Delta State.