Temporary respite came the way of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, yesterday in the United Kingdom after a Royal Court of Justice Court 1, London, ordered his release from Huntcombe Prison.
But the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, did not intend to deport Ibori to Nigeria until he handed over £18 million (about N7 billion at interbank rate) of “proceeds of crime” to the government. Lol, they should KUKU leave him there. N7bn kor, at least Baba still dey enjoy.
Ibori’s release came following the crash of a last minute effort by the UK Homeland Office to keep him in prison after serving out his jail term. However, the former governor will be confined to house arrest on Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood area in London pending a confiscation hearing scheduled for January.
The former governor is expected to be visiting the Croydon Police Station regularly before his final appearance in court in 2017. Ibori, a.k.a Odidigborigbo of Africa, was jailed on April 17, 2012, for 13 years by the Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. He was, however, due for release on Tuesday after serving half of his sentence.
Ruling yesterday in the application by the UK government to request for an extension of Ibori’s prison remand, Mrs. Justice May declined the request and ordered the immediate release of the ex-governor from prison.
“You don’t hold someone just because it is convenient to do so and without plans to deport them,” the judge held. The Home Office had argued before the court that the government was concerned that Ibori might “frustrate confiscation proceedings” and, therefore, wanted him kept in jail or subject to strict controls on his movement.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is pursuing the confiscation proceedings, was “neutral” about Ibori’s release and possible deportation. In his explanation in court on Wednesday, Ibori’s counsel, Ivan Krolic, explained how another defendant in the fraud case had appealed against conviction on the grounds that “police officers in the investigations had been corrupt”.
Krolic said: “The court of appeal rejected that, after counsel for the Crown indicated that there was nothing to support the allegation.” In her ruling to order Ibori’s release, May said: “The Secretary of State appears to have taken it upon herself that Mr. Ibori does remain in this country, in apparent contradiction of the order served earlier this year to deport him.
“The position of the Secretary of State, as very candidly set out by Mr. Birdling (representing the home secretary), is that she accepts that there is an argument that she has no power to detain him. “I have decided that the balance of convenience falls heavily in favour of his immediate release. “I am not prepared to impose conditions involving tagging or curfews.”
The judge said the matter of Ibori’s deportation should be heard before the end of January. A Home Office application that Ibori be electronically tagged and subjected to strict curfew conditions was also rejected.
The judge accepted arguments that the Home Secretary was attempting to misuse her immigration and deportation powers. Ibori’s conviction followed a government anticorruption campaign led by the Department for International Development (DfID) 10 years ago.
But earlier this year, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, demanded a review of the evidence following allegations that police took bribes and prosecutors covered it up.
“The review team found material to support the assertion that a police officer received payment in return for information,” the CPS admitted in September. Ibori was jailed for fraud totalling nearly £50 million in April 2012.
He evaded arrest in Nigeria after a mob of supporters attacked police, but was arrested in Dubai in 2010 and extradited to the UK, where he was prosecuted based on evidence from the Metropolitan Police.
Ibori, who ruled Delta from 1999-2007, was one of the most influential governors during his time and he established a political dynasty in Delta State.