James Ibori absent in court, accused of withholding assets
by Isi Esene
James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State who was convicted of money laundering and other financial crimes in a UK court in April surprised everyone yesterday by choosing to stay in his prison cell in Worchestershire rather than attend the confiscation of assets hearing between his defense team and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
At the resumed hearing before Judge Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court, the prosecution team, led by Sasha Wass demanded to see Ibori but his lead councel, Ivan Krolick, informed the court that the former governor will not be present in court and had signed a form to the effect stating his wish.
According to reports, after a moment of uneasy silence in the court, Wass, the representative of the Crown Prosecution Service, decided that Ibori’s absence could be overlooked saying, “The bottom line is we can go ahead without him.”
Wass told the court that after the sentencing in April, there have been several developments which might affect the resumed hearing, one of them being that the convicted criminal refuses to cooperate with prosecutors on the ownership of two properties in the United States of America suspected to be valued in millions of dollars.
Ibori, the Judge and Wass agreed, had been “less than frank in respect of his means.”
Wass continued saying, “Mr Ibori’s ‘means’ is still unsigned and the CPS believes he’s got substantial assets in the U.S. and it requires further investigation.”
Judge Pitts however noted the difficult which the CPS might likely encounter at identifying Ibori’s assets saying, “This case of Ibori has been a complicated case due to members of his family being tried by another Judge, and it’s worth mentioning that most of his assets are scattered elsewhere in the world, only a few in the UK.”
The confiscation hearing has been tentatively adjourned till June 2013 when the CPS hopes to have made some progress in the identification of James Ibori’s assets.