Did James Ibori, former governor of Delta State lie to the general public when he denied in many media outings that he had been convicted for crime s in the United Kingdom?
Certified court papers, now exclusively available to NEXT, make it clear that not only is Mr. Ibori a double convict; on one occasion, he was sentenced alongside his wife, Theresa Ibori, (nee Nakanda) by a British court.
Media road show
During a whirlwind tour of selected media houses in Lagos last week, Mr. Ibori blamed Nuhu Ribadu, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for his difficulties, and accused the former anti-corruption agency boss of framing him.
“All he is trying to do is bring us to public ridicule. When (Nuhu) Ribadu raised the matter in court, my legal team denied categorically the allegation of EFCC at the time because Ribadu was the one that raised it,” he said in an interview with the Lagos newspaper, Daily Independent, of which he is also the proprietor.
The former governor craftily muddled the facts in his answers. Whereas the question posed to him was: “Ribadu was quoted as saying that you are an ex-convict. He said you were convicted twice, in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom.”
However, Mr. Ibori’s answer showed that he was responding to events relating to his 1995 trial by the Bwari Upper Area Court during which a man named James Onanefe Ibori was convicted of negligent conduct and a criminal breach of trust.
At the expiration of his immunity in 2007 when the EFCC charged him for abuse of office and money laundering at the Federal High Court in Kaduna, Mr. Ribadu openly accused Mr. Ibori of being a double convict.
In his response to the Daily Independent, Mr. Ibori said, “they took argument for over two hours in this matter and the court ruled that all the allegations, everything that was said should be deleted from the court records, because if you say somebody was convicted, you have to bring fingerprint evidence.”
Mr. Ibori added that “this was a matter they brought inside the (Nigerian) courtroom that was argued and denied by my counsel vigorously in the courtroom. It was deleted from the court records.”
Probably unknown to his interviewers, Mr. Ibori was responding to his alleged Nigerian conviction, making it pass as an ominibus argument for his U.K. convictions too.
NEXT investigations, however, show that fingerprint evidence has confirmed that he was convicted twice in the U.K.
Both crimes were committed before he became governor, but it was with the dramatic arrest of Mrs. Ibori on November 1, 2007 at the Heathrow Airport in England that the London Police were able to put both incidents together.
The first puzzle
John McDonald of the Metropolitan Police, was the arresting officer who exposed the Ibori couple. As he wrote in his statement: “On the 1st of November 2007, at 2050 hours (9:50pm Nigerian time), I arrested Mrs. Theresa Nkoyo Ibori at Heathrow airport on suspicion of being concerned in money laundering.
"Mrs. Ibori was later conveyed to the police station at Heathrow Airport. During the procedure of booking in Mrs. Ibori at the Police Station, it is routine to obtain copy of her fingerprints,” Mr. McDonald stated in a witness statement he deposed to on January 7, 2008.
Mr. McDonald explained further that “as a result of Mrs. Ibori’s fingerprints being taken, a report was produced stating that the fingerprints obtained that evening were an exact match to a series of fingerprints held for an individual, Theresa NAKANDA, under the Police reference number 134269/90F.
The fingerprints were obtained on the 25th of August 1990 at Oxbridge Police Station. NAKANDA is Mrs. Ibori’s maiden name.”
“As a result of those fingerprints being matched, , , I was able to establish that she was arrested with Mr. James Ibori for theft,” Mr. McDonald stated.
A craving for petty theft
According to British court records, Mr. Ibori, 29, standing 5ft 11”, was born on August 4, 1962, and lived at 9 Nower Hill Pinner Middlesex, in England. He Worked as a cashier at Wickes Building Supplies, Victoria Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, and earned 9,500 pounds per annum.
On Tuesday, August 28, 1990, with Mr. Ibori already resumed for the day’s work, according to court records, Theresa Nakanda came into the store and stole goods with the connivance of her boyfriend, Mr. Ibori, at about 8.30pm.
Mr. Ibori “Assisted his girlfriend (Theresa) to leave without check put of do it yourself store without paying for goods whilst employed as cashier,” was the way British court records described the former governor’s act.
Mr. Ibori and his girlfriend (now wife) were then charged before the Crown court at Isleworth. Theresa Nakanda and James Ibori, on August 28, 1990, were charged for “stealing a quantity of goods, ”
On January 25 1991, Judge Thomas convicted both Mr. Ibori and his wife and fined them “300 pounds in default 14 days imprisonment”. They were also made to pay “costs of the prosecution in the sum of 45 pounds.”
Mr. Ibori, who was represented by the law firm of Desmond Wright and Co., paid a total of 750 pounds for his crime.
Graduating to credit card fraud
A year after his conviction before the Crown court at Isleworth, Mr. Ibori, who is an elder of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was back in court again, this time at the Clerkenwell magistrates court, in London.
Police officer McDonald stated in his witness statement that “I have made further enquiries into the criminal convictions for Mr. James Ibori and can confirm that on the 7th of February 1992 at Clerkenwell magistrate’s court, London, Mr. Ibori was convicted of one count of handling stolen goods contrary to Section 22 of the Theft Act, 1968.”
The offence took place on Thursday, September 12, 1991. Putting on a blue suit and a pair of brown shoes at about 3:50pm, Mr. Ibori was challenged by British police officer Michelsen who found an American Express Gold card on him.
When he was challenged, “he claimed to be Sean Burns, the card owner”, the UK court records show. By the time the card was retrieved from Mr. Ibori, the “card was involved in 1000pounds of misuse.” Mr. Ibori was arrested but granted bail.
The former Delta State governor was charged before Clerkenwell Magistrate Court in England on two offences, one of which stated that “on or before 12th September 1991 within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, you stole one American Express Gold Card of nominal value belonging to American Express, contrary to: S1 Theft Act 1968.”
The court could not prove that he stole the card, however, Mr. Ibori was convicted of handling of stolen goods. “You did handle one American Express Gold card in that knowing or believing it to be stolen goods, you did dishonestly arrange to receive the said goods. Contrary to S22(1) Theft Act 1968,” the court ruled.
Can a convict contest election?
The revelation of Mr. Ibori’s conviction got some human rights attornies debating yesterday that he ought not have been ineligible for election in 1999.
“If that information (his double conviction) was available to INEC in 1999, certainly he would have stood disqualified from participating in the election,” says Jiti Ogunye, a human rights lawyer. Mr. Ogunye referred to Section 182 of the Nigerian Constitution.
Mr. Ogunye also said that “the revelation coming from England is an indictment somewhat of the Nigerian Judiciary.
Our courts of law are not supposed to be hypocritical platform for the administration of justice,” referring to the now famous 1995 case where one James Onanefe Ibori was convicted by a Bwari Magistrate Court in Abuja of theft but in which the Supreme Court held that there was no sufficient evidence that the former governor was the convict, despite the convicting judge’s testimony.
Bamidele Aturu, another lawyer, concurs with Mr. Ogunye “If somebody is convicted, under Nigerian constitution, such a person ought to have been disqualified at any level,” Mr. Aturu stated. “It doesn’t matter whether the conviction is inside or outside Nigeria.”
Mr. Aturu further states that “apart from what the law states, anyone who has been found to have been convicted of fraud or dishonesty is not morally fit to be cleared to contest election in Nigeria. Otherwise, it will show that we do not have any respect for humanity.”
Lagos criminal attorney, Charles Musa, agrees: “If he was convicted at any time after 1989, whether in Nigeria or not, then he was not eligible to contest.” Mr. Musa questioned the effectiveness of Nigeria’s security agencies for not detecting that Ibori was an ex-convict before he was cleared to contest.
Our law enforement agencies have failed us.
Our country needs 're-booting' like someone suggested.
I remember a certain senator said that there are many criminals in the house. Though he later backed down, it would help a lot if he can be bold enough to name names.