‘Secret Whitehall deal with Nigeria’ for fraudster’s cash – Sunday Times
ABOVE PHOTO: Whistleblower Bhadresh Gohil (right) with the Mail on Sunday’s David Rose. Gohil said he ‘uncovered serious corruption, but when I tried to expose this, I was victimised’
THE Department for International Development (DfID) has been accused of a conflict of interest after bankrolling the police investigation of a multimillionaire Nigerian fraudster while allegedly striking a secret deal to recover £25m of his confiscated assets.
During a hearing at Southwark crown court last week, Stephen Kamlish QC, representing Bhadresh Gohil, a former lawyer of James Ibori, a Nigerian politician convicted of involvement in a £157m fraud, accused DfID of signing a memorandum with Nigeria under which it would recoup £25m of any proceeds of crime recovered from Ibori. DfID denies such a deal was struck.
It has previously emerged that DfID made a financial contribution towards the cost of the police investigation of Ibori, which is itself now at the centre of corruption claims.
Kamlish told the confiscation hearing: “I have information that there is a memorandum in existence signed between the British government and Nigerian government in which the result of this confiscation will be that DfID takes £25m of the proceeds of the confiscation order — if such an order is made — as opposed to the proceeds going back to the loser state, which is Nigeria.
“If DfID stands to benefit to the tune of £25m by these convictions, it is clear that there is an additional argument about the probity of these prosecutions as a whole.”
Kamlish claimed he had tried unsuccessfully to raise the memorandum and concerns about the handling of the case by the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions.
Ibori, a former governor of Nigeria’s rich Delta State, and Gohil were jailed in 2012 for funnelling tens of millions of pounds of state funds into private bank accounts. Some of the money was spent on luxury homes, sports cars and expensive holidays.
The case was seen as a triumph for Scotland Yard but is now beset by claims that a police officer took bribes, details of which were then suppressed by the CPS.
Kamlish told the court: “There is this cloud that hangs over all these proceedings . . . We will be submitting an appeal that will undermine all these convictions.”
DfID said: “The UK government has no intention to retain any part of any assets confiscated in this case. There is no such agreement.”