#PanamaPapers uncovers how Ibori the thief organised massive stealing of Delta funds

James Ibori

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, established limited liability companies and foundations in secret offshore tax havens to hide some of the funds he looted from the state’s treasury, a leak of secret tax documents has revealed.

Mr. Ibori, who is currently serving jail term in the United Kingdom after pleading guilty to fraud charges in 2012, enlisted his immediate family as beneficiaries of the offshore companies and foundations.

Details of how Mr. Ibori organised the looted funds were contained in a leak of about 11.5M secret documents owned by the Panama-based international law firm, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and over 100 other media partners in 82 countries.

The Panama Papers scandal has been described as the biggest leak in history.

To hide his loot, Mr. Ibori, working through a Swiss asset management firm, Clamorgan S.A. in Geneva, established several offshore companies, including Stanhope Investments Limited,a foundation, Julex Foundation, and a trust, The Hopes Trust, enlisting himself, his wife and daughters as beneficiaries.

Clamorgan prides itself as a company that provides asset management, fiduciary services, immovable property administration, amongst others, and operates under the laws of Geneva, Switzerland.

After almost five years of playing cat and mouse with Nigerian and British authorities, the former governor capitulated on February 27, 2012, pleading guilty in a London court to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

Before Judge Anthony Pitts, Mr. Ibori admitted stealing $250million as alleged by the prosecution.

The Metropolitan Police accused Mr. Ibori of spending some of the stolen money to purchase six houses in London – paying £2.2m in cash for one Hampstead mansion – and putting his children in expensive British private schools.

The leaked papers have now revealed how Mr. Ibori used offshore shell companies and foundations to launder Delta State’s money, including an attempt to take out a massive loan from Lloyds Bank in London.

The beneficiaries of Mr. Ibori’s Julex Foundation were Mr. Ibori himself; his wife, Theresa and some other believed to be his daughters: Obianuju, Ehriatake Ibori, Otonvwen, Eseoghene, Oberhili and Eguono.

In August 2003, Clamorgan S.A. applied for registration for Stanhope Investments Ltd. in the Pacific Island of Niue with initial shareholders’ capital of $50,000 at $1.00 per share, all held by Julex Foundation. A certificate of incorporation for Stanhope was issued by the Office of the Registrar of International Business Companies on August 11, 2003.

On behalf of Mr. Ibori, Clamorgan S.A. contacted Mossack Fonseca & Co. in Seychelles to act as the registered agents for Stanhope Investments Ltd.

Mr. Ibori then secured the services of Yvette Rogers and Francis Perez to act as nominee directors on his behalf. Nominee directors are usually appointed in tax havens to hide ownership of companies and assets.

Timeline of James Ibori's caseBoth Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Perez were staff of Mossack Fonseca. The two only signed forms as directors of the company, and they take direct instructions from shareholders — Julex Foundation, through Clarmorgan S.A.

Therefore, they had no discretion over the company’s activities, whatsoever.

Mr. Ibori hired Sebastian Thiery, a certified independent assets management consultant based in Switzerland as the signatory to the account of Julex Foundation. He operated the bank accounts on behalf of the Iboris.

When Mossack Fonseca resigned as the registered agent for Stanhope in Seychelles in 2012, the company transferred all Stanhope’s assets to Mr. Thiery.

The documents also showed that all the shares of Stanhope were issued in bearer form. According to Investopedia, bearer form means the security is traded without any record of ownership, so physical possession of the security is the sole evidence of ownership. Most securities issued today are in registered form.

The leaked papers linked Stanhope Investments, Julex Foundation, Financial Advisory Group Ltd. and Hunglevest Corporation as the four companies owned by Mr. Ibori in tax havens.

Other companies such as Borel and Barbey, a Swiss law firm, The Hopes Trust and Howard LLP in London also had links to Mr. Ibori.

Mr. Ibori’s ordeal began in April 2005 when the U.K. authorities uncovered his fraudulent activites. It was revealed that Mr. Ibori obtained and transferred funds from accounts held or controlled by fraudulent individuals.

During their investigation, U.K. authorities unearthed companies acting as fronts for Mr. Ibori through Mossack Fonseca in Seychelles. He had requested that Stanhope Ltd. be moved from Niue to Seychelles in 2004.

Seychelles attorney-general’s office notified Mossack Fonseca that a criminal investigation had been launched into the activities of Mr. Ibori in the U.K. and demanded that all documents relating to Stanhope be forwarded to his office.

Mr. Ibori had attempted to take a huge ‘loan’ from Lloyds Bank Plc using properties located at 261 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QT as guarantee for the loan. A hostel reservation company, Bed Reservation Jersey Limited, applied for the loan which was to be guaranteed by Stanhope’s entire assets.

In the process of acquiring the loan, Mr. Ibori’s lawyers also attempted to compromise Lloyds Bank’s lawyer, by plotting to hire the same attorney hired by the bank for the transaction. Jersey is one of the most popular tax havens for the elite.

We were unable to determine if the loan was eventually approved and how much.

Mr. Ibori also made efforts to instruct his partners to conceal evidences in order to frustrate his case with the Seychelles Supreme Court.

In the first of these instances, in an email dated April 14, 2008, Stanhope instructed Mossack Fonseca to conceal some information about other possible assets being managed on behalf of Mr. Ibori.

“Please see list of documents sent to AG’s office. Please note that we did not attached the document of Borel & Barbey as it does not mention Stanhope Investments Ltd.”

A week later on April 21, 2008, Stanhope again requested that some information be redacted from the documents, in a clear violation of the law since that request came after the Seychelles court’s order that all documents be released.

“We also suggest to eliminate the “Email from the client dated 27th, October, 2004” from the group of documents. Please refer to point No.14. We believe this email includes a list of instructions of our client, reflecting information about other companies that are not involved in this case.

“We believe it is not convenient to deliver all this unnecessary information to the authorities. Please confirm that you will take out this email copy from the group of documents.”

“2. The indemnity letter is not necessary neither. Please refer to point No.9. We must declare that we have an indemnity letter from the client in the Statement of Mossack Fonseca.”

Jailed on April 17, 2012, for 13 years on, Mr. Ibori is currently serving jail term in the United Kingdom. That was the third time the former former governor, described as a thief in Government House, got sentenced for theft in London.

Mr. Ibori’s spokesperson, Tony Eluemunor, declined ICIJ requests to comment for this story.

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