London prosecutors have fingered Victor Attah, former Akwa Ibom State governor, as one of the collaborators of James Ibori – former Delta state governor – who has pleaded guilty to several charges of theft in Southwark Crown Court in London.
The prosecutors told the judge on Monday as Mr. Ibori awaited his sentencing for stealing government funds that the two former governors formed a phantom company called ADF to siphon US$37.5million from Delta and Akwa Ibom states’ shares in V-Mobile – a Nigerian telecom company – as part of an extended argument to finally nail Mr. Ibori.
Mr. Ibori remained one of Nigeria’s most influential politicians after serving as governor of the oil rich Delta state. He returned to a London court on Monday to earn his sentence after pleading guilty to a 10-count charge of stealing government funds in while governor of his native Delta State.
Mr. Ibori, wearing a black suit and a gold-plated wristwatch, nodded from time to time as the prosecutor recounted all the crimes he has committed since 1991, both in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom, where he was first sentenced for theft in 1991.
Mr. Ibori was first convicted in 1991 of stealing from DIY shop in the UK. The following year, 1992, he was also convicted of credit card fraud in the UK.
After serving his brief term in London, he returned to Nigeria, the following year, and aligned with the then ruling military junta led by Sanni Abacha.
He brushed aside a similar conviction of theft in a Bwari Area council – near Abuja – court to become governor of the oil rich Delta state in 1999 following the return of democratic rule in Nigeria.
He went ahead to serve as governor of the state for eight years where he admitted stealing at least $250 million within the period.
Petty thief with millionaire lifestyle
According to Sasha Wass, Ibori’s lead prosecutor, Mr. Ibori was a petty thief who “lived and behaved like a millionaire.”
She detailed to the judge how the former governor started off as a petty thief who stole from his employers in London and “went on to live the lifestyle of a property tycoon, living like royalty.”
No case against Attah
Three of the money laundering charges against Ibori relates to the sale of Delta state’s share in mobile phone company, V-Mobile, another Niger Delta State, Akwa Ibom – then headed by Victor Attah.
The prosecutor told the court – while the former Delta State governor nodded apparently in agreement – that Ibori and Mr Attah formed a phantom company called ADF to later siphon US$37.5million from Delta and Akwa Ibom states’ shares in V-Mobile.
In Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – Nigeria’s anti-graft agency – claimed ignorance of Mr Attah’s collaboration with Ibori.
“We have no case against him,” Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesman said. “We will wait for the court ruling first.”
Last in Jail
Mr. Ibori’s sentencing is slated for Tuesday. The judge, after listening to the prosecutor, described Ibori’s several frauds as “sensational.”
His counsel laboured in court to get a lenient sentencing for his client. In one breadth, he blamed the Nigerian military for creating the condition that pushed Mr. Ibori into corruption. In another he said the former governor is a good man who helped secure hostages’ release in the Niger Delta.
After listening to him, the judge said she was not trying to give judgment on Mr. Ibori’s tenure and goodness but on the corruption allegations against him.
When sentenced, Ibori will be the last of his friends and family to be jailed for his crimes.
His wife, sister and mistress have been convicted of money-laundering in the UK and are serving various terms in prisons.
His solicitor Gohil was also jailed for 10 years for helping syphon the money Ibori stole.
In 2007, a UK court froze assets allegedly belonging to him worth $35m after he failed to justify buying the property with his annual salary as Delta state governor of less than $25,000.