Convicted former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, hid some of his assets in an indigenous integrated oil company, Oando Plc, according to a British prosecutor.
The prosecutor was quoted by Reuters in a report on Monday as saying that the former governor, who is serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom for fraud and money-laundering, hid some of his assets in the oil firm; adding that money passed from Oando’s accounts into Ibori’s Swiss accounts.
Ibori had in February 2012 pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering worth £50m.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass was quoted as telling the court that she would be presenting evidence that Ibori had “asserted ownership of a large part” of Oando, Nigeria’s biggest home-grown oil firm, which is listed in Lagos, Johannesburg and Toronto.
“The Crown will assert that Oando is a company where James Ibori has hidden assets,” Wass said, giving no further details.
One of the biggest embezzlement cases seen in Britain, the successful prosecution of Ibori was also a rare example of a senior Nigerian politician being held to account for the corruption that blights Africa’s most populous country.
At the time of Ibori’s sentencing in April 2012, Judge Anthony Pitts said the £50m that he had admitted to stealing might be a “ludicrously low” fraction of his total booty, which could be more than £200m.
The confiscation hearing will shed further light on the scale of Ibori’s wealth and determine whether he emerges from jail impoverished or still in possession of a large enough fortune to regain a position of influence in Nigeria.
Ibori could be released as early as 2016 because he spent two years in custody before his sentencing and because he will be eligible for parole halfway through his prison term.
He was not in court on Monday and his lawyer, Ivan Krolick, said Ibori did not wish to attend the confiscation hearing although he would come to court to give evidence if necessary.
In May, the Court of Appeal had rejected Ibori’s appeal against the length of his sentence.
During his sentencing hearing, the court heard that Ibori had acquired six foreign properties worth £6.9m, a fleet of luxury cars including a Bentley and a Maybach 62, and that he had tried to buy a $20m private jet. His three daughters were attending a private school in rural England.
However, the Head, Corporate Communications, Oando Plc, Mr. Ainojie Irune, who spoke with our correspondent in Lagos, denied the report that the jailed ex-governor owned a larger part of the oil company.
He said, “We state categorically that Mr. James Ibori does not own ‘a large part of Oando’ and that this statement is incorrect and misleading. Oando is a publicly traded company listed on the Nigerian and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges and does not and cannot control the trading in its securities on the floor of the respective Exchanges.
“Based on our current shareholding register, Mr. James Ibori’s shareholding stands at 443 shares out of a total issued and paid up share capital of 6.8 billion ordinary shares, which is clearly insignificant, and cannot be considered as ‘a large part of Oando.’
“Oando also stated that it does accept that sometime in 2004, in the normal course of its business, it sold some of its foreign exchange earnings for naira and the recipient of the US dollars was a company, which has now turned out to be one controlled by James Ibori.
“At the time of the transaction, this information was unknown to Oando. The total amount was $2.7m made in three separate transactions over a period of about seven months. This amount was insignificant considering the company’s turnover of approximately $800m in 2004.”