James Ibori, still far from going home from UK Jail - CVIEW NEWS

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

James Ibori, still far from going home from UK Jail

 Hopes that the  jailed former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, could be released and returned to Nigeria this year are in jeopardy, as his confiscation of £89 million assets hearing, which had been scheduled to last for six weeks – from Monday- was adjourned till June 2016.However, it wasn’t of Ibori’s making as his defence team, led by Ivan Krolick, even though, asked for a week or 10 days’ adjournment to prepare well, told the court they had been instructed not to ask for any adjournment .However, the court had little option  and in fact , the hands of the judge were – literally – tied due to Ibori’s case being intertwined with that of his former solicitor and co-defendant, Brandresh Gohil.
The application for an adjournment was moved  by Gohil’s solicitor, Mr. Kamlish, who argued that it would be unfair to proceed with the hearing because his client not only had another trial -linked to his involvement with Ibori- Gohil would be disadvantaged if he were to represent himself.Another reason for adjournment was the application and argument made by the solicitor for Udoamaka Onuigbo , Mr. Feder, who told the court that his client had wanted to be in court to contest the realisable benefits that was said to have accrued to her and which the Court of Appeal had not only given her the right to challenge, but also found to be inflated.Onuigbo, who has completed her jail term and presently in Nigeria, is not only one of Ibori’s accomplices, but is equally contesting that she had no realisable benefits  during Ibori’s eight -year reign and the £2 million she was made to pay before being deported to Nigeria in April 2012, is to be challenged – based on a ruling by the Court of Appeal.Feder then told the court that Onuigbo had applied to the United Kingdom Border Agency, UKBA, in order to get a visa and come to testify in court, but was refused.
 He said his client definitely wanted to be physically present in court to contest the benefits figure she was alleged to have received . Moreso, with the order from the Court of Appeal, granting her the permission , Feder first said he might ask for the assistance of the Judge in getting Onuigbo to the UK, but Pitts didn’t appear to want to go down that route.A nearly heated conversation ensued between the judge and Feder. The conversation went thus:Feder: Your honour, she wants to be here, she wants to fight her corner, and I may seek your honour’s assistance in this respect, Judge: Are you not in a position to deal with the benefit figure?Feder: I hear what your honour says, but she wants to be here. Judge: I understand she can’t be here through no fault of her own, I wonder why you can’t deal with the issue on your own?Feder then threatened to apply for a stay of execution of the hearing , if the judge wanted to go ahead and disobey the order of the Court of Appeal. This seemed to have angered the judge, though.  With  Gohil’s situation, Onuigbo’s absence, the case looked heading for an adjournment.Krolick, meanwhile, told the judge he only asked for a week or 10-day adjournment to prepare well for the case, accusing the Crown of just sending the list of exhibits and witnesses they would be using  the Wednesday before Easter. He also reasoned that if  the  aborted hearing lasted for three weeks with just  two witnesses – Nuhu Ribadu  and Detective Peter Clark – last year, now that the Crown had indicated they would be calling 61 witnesses, there was no way he could do a good representation at just about three weeks notice.

Despite that, he told Pitts: ” I am specifically instructed not to seek any further adjournment .”This is even after also accusing the Crown of just writing to the defence on Sunday night, asking that they – Ibori’s team – state the “grounds for objection on any of the 61 witnesses.”  He then argued that, “so, your honour, even if Mr Ibori were the sole defendant, it is not possible ,” to finish the case in six weeks .After forward and back arguments, including a short adjournment of about 10 minutes , the judge adjourned till June 2016, but Onuigbo ‘s matter continues on Tuesday.Ibori who was jailed in  April 2012, for 13  years, but to serve less than four years, should be due for release sometime this year.But as the hearing has now  been postponed till June 6, 2016 , it is unclear whether he would be kept in prison through no fault of his.

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