James Ibori regains freedom after 5 years

Former Delta state governor James Ibori has been released from prison in the United Kingdom following an order from a British court.

Ibori had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for fraud, and had served 5 and a half years of the sentence. He had been jailed in April 2012 for fraud of nearly £50 million. The news of his freedom had triggered celebrations in his hometown of Oghara in Delta state.

He still has a pending asset forfeiture case against him by the British government, but attempts to keep him in jail by the British Home Secretary had failed. He had agreed to be deported, thus there was no reason for him to be kept in jail anymore.

“You don’t hold someone just because it is convenient to do so and without plans to deport them,” Justice Juliet May said.

Ibori won’t be deported anytime soon however, as Home Secretary Amber Rudd plans to keep him until he hands over £18 million of “proceeds of crime.”

“At 12.20 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21, 2016, Her Honour, Mrs. Justice Juliet May, Queen’s Counsel, dropped her verdict: She ordered the immediate release of Chief James Onanefe Ibori,” a statement from Ibori’s media aide Mr. Tony Eluemunor, read.

“With that, Ibori’s lawyers won a major victory against the British Home Office at the Royal Court of Justice, Queens Court 1, London, by successfully challenging the decision not to release Ibori who was due for freedom on Tuesday, December 20, after serving his sentence.

“In a curious move, the British Home Office, instead of releasing Ibori on December 20, informed him that he would be detained on the grounds that his confiscation hearing had not been concluded.

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“So, in court, Ibori’s lawyers exposed the injustice in the indefinite detention the Home Office had planned for Ibori. They told the judge that there were no grounds in law under which Ibori could be detained and that his detention for one extra day by the Home Office was unlawful.”

“The apparent decision to block Ibori’s release and detain him appeared to have come from the highest echelons of the UK Government – the Home Secretary – who was accused in today’s hearing of acting unlawfully and misusing her powers.

“Sian Davies, the Crown Prosecution lawyer did not object to Ibori’s release and return to Nigeria, yet at the last minute the Home Office stepped in. There is clear discord between the two arms of the British government,” it added.

“Mrs. Justice May rejected the Home Secretary’s requests for conditions to be imposed and ordered Ibori’s immediate release.

“Ivan Krolic, who also attended, explained that Ibori’s confiscation proceedings collapsed in 2013, after the prosecution was unable to establish any theft from the Delta State and any benefit for Ibori from anywhere.

“A three-week hearing which heard live evidence was abandoned by the prosecutors – Wass, QC, and Shutzer-Weissman. Both prosecutors have since been dismissed from the case for gross misconduct.

“Krolic further explained that British police officers in the case led by DC McDonald, have again been referred to the Independent Public Complaints Commission and now face a thorough investigation into their corrupt activities in this case.

“The CPS has confirmed officers in the case were corrupt. It has since disclosed substantial material evidencing the graft.

“Ibori and others have long maintained that this prosecution was politically motivated. But it was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) whose senior employee was also the jury foreperson in one of the earlier trials,” the statement finished.