x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Nigerian politician arrested in Dubai

James Onanefe Ibori has been arrested in Dubai and is facing extradition to Britain on charges of money laundering.

A Nigerian politician has been arrested in Dubai and is facing extradition to Britain on charges of money laundering. James Onanefe Ibori served as the governor for the oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007. Media reports in Nigeria say he owns property in Dubai, but this could not be independently confirmed. If extradited, he would become only the second person to be sent to Britain for trial under a 2008 treaty. According to Nigerian anti-corruption officials, Mr Ibori fled the country after he was summoned in a court case that named him in connection with laundering 44 billion naira (Dh1.1bn) "We invited him for questioning but he did not appear," the spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Femi Babafemi, said in a phone interview yesterday. "We declared him wanted and put him on a watch list in March." Mr Ibori is accused of using state funds to purchase several companies under his name. Commission investigators said Mr Ibori would later launder that money in the UK, in bank accounts he controlled. He has repeatedly denied corruption allegations. Mr Ibori, his wife, sister and personal assistant are all the subjects of a money-laundering trial in London that began in 2007. Anti-corruption officials in Nigeria said they are working with the Metropolitan Police in London to ensure Mr Ibori is extradited there. His assets have been frozen and he has been wanted by Metropolitan Police since 2007. According to court documents filed in Southwark Crown Court in London, Mr Ibori "has a chequered history. At one time, in the early 1990s, when living in England and working as a cashier, he and his wife were in debt and also in trouble for minor offences of dishonesty; but by 1999 he had risen in the world, and in that year he took office as the governor of Delta State of Nigeria." His reported income during his tenure as governor was nearly US$25,000 per year, but despite such modest salary, Mr Ibori and his family discovered massive wealth. According to court documents: "The main thrust of the [UK] case against these defendants is that each of them assisted [Mr Ibori] in a major money-laundering operation, whereby these monies or at least part of them were paid into various bank accounts in the UK and/or used towards the purchase in this country of a number of properties, and/or to fund the luxurious lifestyles of one or more of the defendants." Mr Ibori was released on bail today. He will be facing an extradition trial to the UK later this month. The only other person extradited to the UK under the 2008 treaty was Jeleel Ahmed, who was sent to the UK last August and is currently on trial in Birmingham for murder. myoussef@thenational.ae