HHJ Hardy, The judge handling the Trial of the associates of Former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori at the Southwark Crown Court, London UK, has ruled that the trial will go ahead despite the finding by Justice Awokulehin of The Federal High Court, Asaba, that the charges EFCC had brought against Ibori in the Nigerian court lacked prima facie evidence of any wrong doing.
On January 2010, Lawyers to James Ibori and his associates in the UK moved to strike out the money-laundering charges. Ibori was asking the judge to quash the charges against his associates and wife because the case against him at the Federal High Court in Asaba has collapsed, and the case in London should follow suit as a consequence.
But today, Elombah.com Sources says the Judge Hardy found otherwise and have informed the lawyers that the trial will go ahead while the defence lawyers have indicated they will appeal the ruling.
At the first mention, the judge handling the case gave directives for a full hearing scheduled for the 25th and 26th of January 2010.
Ibori is standing trial for alleged laundering of €70million alongside his sister, Christie Ibori-Ibie; his former personal assistant on confidential matters, Bimpe Pogoson; and Ms. Udoamaka Onuigbo-Okoronkwo.
Only the three women are, however, being tried since Ibori is no longer in London. The money, allegedly belonging to Delta State, was laundered between 2001 and 2006.
The Federal High Court, Asaba, Delta State ruled on 17th December 2009 that the charges EFCC had brought against Ibori in the Nigerian court lacked prima facie evidence of any wrong doing. The court held that there was no basis for the court to continue with the trial of the case, and duly discharged Ibori and all the co-accused.
Recall that at last year’s hearing, Judge Hardy asked prosecuting counsel Wass QC why the Metropolitan Police did not wait for the outcome of the Nigeria proceedings.
At the last hearing on Tuesday January 25th, 2010, HHJ Hardy ordered the prosecution to justify their reasons for continuing the proceedings in the United Kingdom “now that a Nigerian court of competent jurisdiction had dismissed all the charges against James Ibori”.
At the legal arguments by the Prosecution on Wednesday, January 26, An obviously worried Wass QC, for the prosecution argued in almost a bumbling fashion, that the Judge should not hold score with the Nigerian judgement of a Federal High Court in December, which discharged Ibori and dismissed the case Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought against him and five others.
Whereas the defence teams led by Tim Owen QC gave detailed and concise legal authorities setting out the precise and factual position in law, on his arguments for the defence suggesting that it would be wholly unjust and immoral to continue the trial when the principal alleged offender had been acquitted by direct admissible evidence, within the alleged jurisdiction in which the evidence tendered did not even disclose a prima facie case.
He said it would be a travesty of justice and unalloyed persecution for another jurisdiction to prosecute without relevant evidence, witnesses, and worse still, reverse the burden of proof to be upon the defendant and then rely upon an inference argument. Trollope was painstakingly detailed in his analysis of the legal and factual position.
Full detail of today’s ruling coming soon