The long awaited Ibori confiscation proceedings are scheduled to start on Monday, 6 June at Southwark Crown Court before His Honour Judge Tomlinson.
On May 20 2016 Judge Tomlinson, during a preliminary hearing held at Court 13, the Southwark Crown Court sitting in London stated the former governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori, may appear in court to give further evidence on some knotty issues.
Ibori was accused of defrauding the Delta State of huge sums of money regarding his assets confiscation proceeding which has received series of adjournments since October 2013, specifically for the prosecution to call witnesses.
The original Ibori confiscation hearing took place in September/October 2013 before HHJ Pitts. It lasted three weeks. It was adjourned (after hearing a number of witnesses), as the Judge was unable to reach a decision as to the amount of ‘benefit’ obtained by Ibori.
The prosecution at the time, led by Sasha Wass QC and Esther Shutzer-Weissman sought an adjournment to procure further evidence to support the confiscation. The prosecution has now confirmed it will be calling no new evidence.
Ibori’s position appears to be that he has obtained no benefit/criminal proceeds or stolen funds from the Delta State. The position on the funds was corroborated by a UK forensic report prepared in 2013 on behalf of Ibori, which forensically analysed the source of the funds.
“None appear to have emanated from the Delta State. This is set out in the Crowe Clark and Whitehill Report, and the expert Rosalind Stowe was cross examined on it in 2013”, a source knowledgeable on the matter told Elombah.com.
The Ibori team is now intending to run an abuse of process application to stay the proceedings. The basis of this appears to be gross prosecutorial misconduct.
According to witness statements now filed by Nicholas Purnell QC, Ibori’s lead counsel at the time of the guilty pleas in 2012, Wass QC misled and manipulated him, which led him to advise his client to plead guilty. It is well known that Mr Purnell QC is one of the highest respected barristers in the country.
On the matter of Mr Bhadresh Gohil, Mr Kamlish QC also seeks to run an abuse argument.
The basis of this is the police corruption and the ‘sham’ NCA review, designed to exonerate the original investigation conducted by DC McDonald.
“I will talk to the court for the purpose of producing Ibori in court to give evidence in June,” judge Tomlison said.
However, he said regardless of the open-ended plea made by Ibori which led to his sentencing to 13 years imprisonment, there should be a parameter. Though he emphatically said that he does not want anyone to think that he is pre-judging the case before time.
Ibori, who should have been home since March, is still held at Huntercoombe Prison in Oxfordshire and his earliest release from the prison will be upon payment of any amount ordered on the confiscation.
Ibori’s Counsel Mr. Krolick had at the preliminary hearing told the Judge that his submission will be a kind of dialogue and not the usual way of presentation. He said for over two and half years this case was adjourned, that a lot has happened.
He told his honour that Ibori’s case has been enmeshed with police corruption and abuse of process on the confiscation. Therefore, his team have to be concerned on the integrity of prosecution because the system has been manipulated on the case.
“We want to hear their review which may not be ready until the end of August. In 2011, there was publicity in the press relating police corruption on Ibori’s case. Again, there is a calculated plan to inflate the amount in this confiscation,” he told the Judge.
Krolick then said that the totality of the whole incident was that crown prosecution changed it counsel, reasoning that if it were from the defence team that changed its team, the court would have refused it.
Giving his view on the issue raised by Krolick, Judge Tomlison said that he is not casting aspersion anywhere, that is all about perception. The court tends to look very carefully to changes on representatives which was not in an unacceptable way.
He admitted that it is a monumental task for a new team to continue the case as it were, but that allegations have been made and that when there is a new team, there will be difficulties.
Krolick insisted that Ibori had a strong case of abuse of process, doubting if his client will ever get a fair hearing.
The confiscation of assets trial could last for four weeks from June 6.