High-living governor gets 13 years in UK jail for 'corruption and theft'
4/25/2012, 5:49 p.m.
Apr. 17 (GIN) - James Ibori, former governor of Delta state whose outsized crimes shocked even battle-weary Nigerians, was ordered to serve 13 years in jail for the massive theft of public funds that paid for mansions in London and South Africa, a fleet of luxury cars, private jets and girlfriends.
In the guilty plea, the disgraced official acknowledged stealing $79 million from the public purse. The case was heard in the UK after Nigerian courts were unable to reach a verdict.
"You turned yourself in short order into a multimillionaire through corruption and theft in your powerful position as Delta state governor," Judge Anthony Pitts said in his ruling at Southwark Crown Court.
The case came to light in 2005 when Nigerian whistleblowers photographed the mansions and cars and published them in the website SaharaReporters, an internet archive of reports, exposes, photos and videos gathered by concerned citizen journalists.
Nigerian essayist Okey Ndibe, in a piece titled "Why I won't write about Ibori," nevertheless noted that .. "to fix on Ibori is to leave the impression that he is somehow exceptional in Nigeria's political planet. We all know that there are many Iboris out there. What's worse, the Nigerian system daily manufactures and graduates many more Iboris.
"These new Iboris daily enter the leeching enterprise. They take to that despicable business of a few dispossessing the many, tiny cohorts aggrandizing themselves by seizing the public harvest and doing with it as they please."
Human Rights Watch praised the judgment and conviction, noting that Nigerian citizens have seen little benefit from the country's vast oil wealth due to rampant corruption, and nearly 60 percent of the West African nation's population lives on less than a dollar a day.
Meanwhile, in a related matter, Britain's Department for International Development is being accused of allowing tens of millions of pounds in UK aid to be invested in Nigerian money laundering fronts.
According to the investigative BBC Newsnight, the CDC Group, the private enterprise arm of the development agency, is said to have put $47.5m into a private equity fund which invested in Nigerian companies allegedly linked to Ibori. The CDC denies the charge.