- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Sunday, 26 August 2012 12:20
- Written by Elombah.com
Elombah.com has obtained contents of a letter written by a Conservative Member of Parliament asking that the authorities be lenient with James Ibori while he was being pursued for money laundering charges in 2009. The former governor of Delta State and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been jailed for 13 years
by a United Kingdom (UK) court sitting in Southwark, London for money laundering and fraud.
In the letter released by the UK government, Tony Baldry, at that time the MP for Banbury and now Sir Baldry, the member for North Oxfordshire, wrote to then UK foreign secretary David Milliband, lamenting how the actions of the Crown Prosecution Service had inflicted obvious and serious consequences for James Ibori and his ability to live his life day by day.
The five-page letter dated 24 September 2009 was sent to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon David Milliband MP, and copied to the Attorney-General, the Rt Hon Baroness Scotland QC, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP.
In this letter, Mr Baldry apparently sought to persuade the senior Cabinet Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government of the need for the Her Majesty’s Government to discontinue the prosecution of the associates of the former Governor of Delta State of Nigeria, Mr James Ibori, for various money laundering offences at the Southwark Crown Court purportedly on the grounds that the prosecution is damaging to the interests of her Majesty’s Government.
His letter was regarded in Nigeria as an effort to obstruct the trial of Chief Ibori’s associates.
The letter, which ignited a freedom of information controversy in 2010, demonstrates why Mr Baldry did not want it in the hands of the public. Although Sir Baldry did not make a direct case for Ibori or his associates, the letter was a disguised, intensely-sympathetic appeal to the government to intervene on their behalf.
Sir Baldry’s letter to the government followed a meeting he held with the then Nigerian president, Umaru Yar’Adua. The letter demonstrates a carefully-thought out attempt to sway thinking in government circles in favour of the former Nigerian governor and his associates in the UK, following an intense appeal to the MP by President Yar’Adua, who was Ibori’s friend and a political beneficiary.
Elombah.com learnt that on 28 September 2009, four days after he was said to have written the letter to the Foreign Secretary, he registered the following interest in the MPs’ Register of Interests: “Received fee of £22,012.57 from Zaiwalla & Co., solicitors, for advising clients. ... Time worked: 16 hours. (Registered 28 September 2009).”
It is as yet unclear how President Yar’Adua chose Sir Baldry for his advocacy but it seems the two men were brought together by Ibori himself. In the letter, Sir Baldry said: “Arising out of those proceedings the courts made a fairly Draconian world-wide freezing Order on all of James Ibori’s assets.
“My understanding is that James Ibori faces no charges in the United Kingdom. However, his wife and a number of people closely associated with him have been indicted to stand trial at Southwark Crown Court on a number of counts of offences allegedly against the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”
Quick to stress he was not holding brief for any of the defendants, Sir Baldry said he was nonetheless armed with a good deal of information that was favourable to the former governor and he reeled off some of the pertinent credentials, saying: “James Ibori is a public figure in Nigeria, a former governor of Delta State and still actively involved with the governing party of Nigeria.”
Sentencing James Ibori in April 2012, Judge Anthony Pitt of London Southwark Court said that Ibori’s sentencing was not the end of the case, saying that his property would still be confiscated through another legal process and that consequences might arise if there was problem with that.
The judge also said he “recognises that there is another side to the man James Ibori but he is not the proper person to judge his achievements and failings as a governor, saying that it is up to the people of Delta State.”
“If he had fought the case, he would be looking at 24 years but will get a discount for pleading guilty,’’ Judge Pitts also said. He then sentenced the former governor to 13 years in prison.
Ibori’s lawyer Nicholas Purnell, had blamed Ibori’s ex-lawyer Gohil and former Governor Victor Attah for the V-Mobile fraud, saying they were architects of the scam.
In his spirited efforts, Ibori’s lawyer called on the ex-international footballer and close pal to the convict, Mr. John Fashanu, as witness for Ibori to talk about the influence of the Oghara Stadium on the youth of Delta. In his testimony, Fashanu claimed that Ibori built the first shooting range in Nigeria.
Fashanu noted that the ex-governor achieved a lot in sports and was instrumental in the end of militancy in the state.
Ibori’s wife Theresa, his sister Christine, his mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and his London solicitor Bhadresh Gohil had also been convicted in London for involvement in money-laundering.
But efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to try Ibori for the same charge of money laundering in Nigeria were not successful.
The EFCC had first arraigned the ex-governor alongside some other accused persons before Justice Mohammed Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Kaduna on a 103-count charge in December 2007.
Tony Baldry is the head of a London barristers’ chambers (Chambers Of Tony Baldry MP of 1 Essex Ct, Temple, London EC4Y 9AR) where he practises as a barrister, arbitrator and mediator.
Mr Baldry, who was the Chairman of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee from January 2001 to May 2005, has extensive interests in the extractive industries of several emerging economies especially in West Africa. For example, he is the Chairman of Westminster Oil Limited (a British Virgin Islands registered company involved in the development of oil licences and exploration) and the Deputy Chairman of Woburn Energy plc (a UK AIM listed company specialising in oil exploration and recovery). He is also a director of West African Investments Ltd (a company that invests in “infrastructure and natural resource projects in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa”) and a shareholder in Target Resources plc (a company involved in gold and diamond mining in Sierra Leone). Mr Baldry is also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Curve Capital Ventures Ltd (“a sector neutral investment company that predominantly invests in India; China and Africa and advises companies on strategic growth and global expansion”).