Saturday, August 04, 2007
London freezes Ibori's assets
The Southwalk Crown Court in London, Thursday, delivered an order freezing the assets of James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State.
The assets frozen include real estate belonging to the ex-governor in the United Kingdom, a newly acqu-ired aircraft - still with the manufacturers in Canada - and cash, all estimated at between £20 to £25 million. The value of the aircraft alone, according to sources, is believed to be in the region of $20 million.
But in a swift reaction to the development, Ibori told THISDAY in a telephone interview last night that what the British court granted was a restraining order on him from interacting with the assets.
Ibori explained that the London Metropolitan Police had for the past 13 to 15 months been trying to freeze the assets, but simply got a two-month restraining order that was imposed by the court on him (Ibori) from interacting with the assets, while they conduct their investigations.
The restraining order on Ibori’s assets arose from an application made by the London Metropolitan Police after weeks of investigating the wealth of the former governor, which the police felt could not be reconciled with his legitimate earnings.
Also confirming the order by the court, the London Met informed THISDAY over the telephone that an application of restraint had been made at a high court in London against Ibori.
It, however, declined to disclose if the application was based on a request made by an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria and when it was made in the first instance.
Sources in the presidency said this recent turn of events involving yet another ex-governor is as a result of renewed collaboration involving the London Met, Interpol and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“We are optimistic about more of such discoveries in the next few days. The London Met has really been of great help to the Nigerian government,” enthused a source conversant with the case.
He dismissed Ibori’s attempt to downplay the restraining order imposed on him (Ibori) by the court, saying that it amounts to getting his assets frozen. “A restraining order barring an individual from interacting with his assets is tantamount to a freeze on the assets because they cannot be used to transact any business whatsoever.
“Ibori, by the court order cannot withdraw or transfer money from his accounts, carry out any transactions using any of the assets, dispose of them, or even use them to secure any form of mortgage debenture. So what is the difference?” he enquired.
Ibori is one of the 31 former governors under investigations by the EFCC. Speculations have been rife that the EFCC was being arm-twisted from investigating him because of his huge financial contributions to the success of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the April polls.
The freezing of Ibori’s assets is coming on the heels of yesterday’s promise by the Met to help track and recover money laundered by former governors in the United Kingdom. It said it would follow suit in the clampdown against some former governors by digging into the activities of all former Nigerian officials for a period spanning ten years of their stewardship.