THE United Kingdom and Nigeria have signed a deal to return to the latter £4.2 million ($5.84 million) recovered from a former state governor who was jailed in London for money laundering.
James Ibori, who was the governor of southern Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta state from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.
He received a 13-year jail sentence and spent four years behind bars for using public funds to buy luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars and a private jet.
‘This is the first time that money recovered from criminals will be returned to Nigeria [from the UK] since an agreement was signed in 2016 to recover and return the proceeds of bribery or corruption in a responsible and transparent way,’ the UK’s home and foreign office said in a statement.
Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney general, said the funds will be used to help complete a number of infrastructure projects, including a road connecting the capital, Abuja, and the northern commercial hub Kano.
‘I am confident that both the Nigerian and British governments remain committed to all affirmative actions to combat corruption … [and] illicit financial flows,’ Malami said at a ceremony at which officials from the two countries signed an agreement on the return of the funds.
The UK’s Home Office Minister Baroness Williams described the deal as ‘a significant moment,’ saying it sent a clear message ‘to criminals that we will relentlessly pursue them, their assets and their money,’ while Minister for Africa James Duddridge said the two countries ‘will continue to work together to tackle crime and corruption.’
Ibori was at some point one of Nigeria’s richest and most powerful men.
Anti-corruption campaigners had hailed the case as a milestone for Nigeria, where no one of his stature had been successfully prosecuted, and for its former colonial ruler Britain, long seen as too complacent about the proceeds of Nigerian corruption being laundered in the UK.