Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Run-away Governors: the hunt is on

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Run-away Governors: the hunt is on.

Following the sudden disappearance of former Governors Lucky Igbinedion, Chief James Ibori, Obong Victor Attah from Nigeria, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI have been put on the alert to track down any of them who attempts to enter the United States.

Pointblanknews.com learnt that already the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC has contacted the Department of States who in turn directed the FBI to be on the look out for any of the Governors listed by the EFCC.

The latest move by the EFCC to track down fleeing corrupt former Governors is in line with an earlier agreement entered between Nigeria and the United States in an effort to help fight corruption.

Late last week, a top Government delegation traveled to South Africa to take inventory of properties allegedly acquired by some former Governors.

Sources told Pointblanknews.com that preliminary reports available to Government indicate that Igbinedion and Ibori have been linked with huge investments in South Africa allegedly acquired with state funds while they served as Governors.

A highly placed source at the State Department told Pointblanknews.com that as it stands, the wanted Governors would be arrested by U.S operatives and handed over to the EFCC if sited in the U.S.

“We are just assisting the best way we can. Ours is to make sure we get anyone of them arrested if we find them in the U.S. That is part of the agreement we have with the Nigeria Government.”

“We are not authorized to prosecute anyone of them but to hand them over to the Government of Nigeria and that is exactly what we intend to do when we see anyone of them around,” the source who would not want to be named said.

Attah and Igbinedion who have been accused by the EFCC to have embezzled states funds running into several Billions while serving as Governors left Nigeria in an attempt to evade prosecution.

Also, former Delta Governor James Ibori, a subject of corruption investigations by the EFCC fled the country recently.

However, Ibori is regarded as one of the notorious former governors being investigated for embezzlement of public funds and money laundering.

Ibori had made an unsuccessful plot to emasculate the EFCC and remove Nuhu Ribadu as its executive Chairman. Using his contacts in the Umar Yar’Adua administration, James Ibori was behind Attorney General Aondaakar’s recent announcement that the EFCC could no longer prosecute corrupt public officials. But public outcry forced the government to reverse itself, restoring the anti-corruption agency’s powers to prosecute.

Our investigations revealed that Ibori took off a few days ago to South Africa. But he may have slipped out of South Africa as the country’s police closed in on him.

It remains a mystery how Ibori was able to travel since his international passport was supposed to have been confiscated by the EFCC.

Sources told Saharareporters that Ibori’s humiliating defeat in the hands of the EFCC and the freeze placed on his worldwide assets by a British court has led the former governor to consider fleeing from Nigerian prosecutors. Our sources said the EFCC was nearing a decision to arrest Ibori at the time of his hasty escape.

At the last count, the former governor is said to have looted close to N200 billion from the coffers of Delta State treasury. More than 20 officers of the EFCC are investigating Ibori along with many former state officials including the current governor of Delta State, Uduaghan.

Our sources in London disclosed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo effectively shielded Ibori from investigation due to their close relationship. As the EFCC commenced full investigations into the local content of Ibori's corruption, money laundering and racketeering activities, it soon discovered that Ibori had bought into all the strategic companies in the nation. Some of his investments include the acquisition of Willbros Nigeria Limited through a front company known as ASCOT Nigeria Limited. He also owns an airline, Wings Aviation Limited, on whose behalf he was acquiring a brand new jet from Bombardier Airspace Company in Canada. The jet, estimated to be worth $20 million, has been ordered seized by a London Court.

Investigators have also unearthed James Ibori's controlling interests in the National Fertilizer Company (NAFCON) as well as substantial interests in two major banks, Oceanic Bank and Access Bank.

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A friend of the ex-governor who declined to be named denied Chief Ibori was on the run, according to him, " The former governor had traveled to the US from South Africa on vacation". He declined to tell Saharareporters when Chief Ibori would return to face the EFCC. However, he confided in Saharareporters that the EFCC was never in possession of James Ibori's passport as former president Obasanjo never allowed the anti-corruption agency to touch the former governor.

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