Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Former Delta Governor James Ibori to stay in Prison Till 2012

Former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, standing trial in London on a 14 count charge of fraud and money laundering, will remain in prison custody till February 13, 2012, when his case opens.

The alleged crimes were reportedly committed between 1999 and 2007 when Ibori served as Delta State governor.

The decision to remand him in prison followed the successful pleas of his defence lawyers that they need more time to go through 65,000 pages of evidence and also to travel to Nigeria to speak to witnesses.

The former Delta State governor appeared in court, clean shaven and wearing a grey linen jacket and shirt without a tie. He had freshly shaved, getting rid of the small moustache he at one time spotted.

He waved to supporters, and managed to smile at the police officers who led him to court, and also at one point flashed a smile at the police officers who have worked to amass tens of thousand pages of evidence against him.

In legal hearings before the trial, Ibori's defence team told the court that they intend to argue that he cannot be tried in the United Kingdom, since a court in Nigeria has already decided there is no evidence he has committed any crime in Nigeria.

One of Ibori's defence lawyers, Mr. Benjamin Aina (QC), told Southwark Crown Court that they could not begin the trial as planned in November because they need more time to go through the approximately 65,000 pages of evidence and travel to Nigeria to speak to witnesses.

'Mr. Ibori has the right to be competently defended,' Judge Anthony Pitts said, setting the new date. Ibori's defence team did not object to the prosecution's request to extend the time Mr. Ibori could be held in custody.

Without such agreement prisoners in custody on remand for non violent offences can be released on bail after six months.

Ibori was extradited to the UK from Dubai in April 2011, and prosecutors decided he would be tried alongside a co-defendant, Emmanuel Preko, who was already slated to be tried in November.

His lawyer, Nicholas Purnell, referred to in court by other members of the defence team and the Judge as 'one of the finest legal minds of this generation,' told the court he had been forced to withdraw his services from Ibori because of the schedule.

'This has caused some considerable distress to the defendant,' he said. 'The delay to the start date allowed Mr. Purnell to represent Ibori as originally planned,' he said.

The prosecution said the defence team had already had adequate time to prepare, as many of the legal representatives had also worked on the trials involving associates of Ibori.

His wife, mistress and lawyer, were all convicted in London last year. Much of the complex evidence has been agreed over the course of the previous trials, the prosecution said.

Before the trial the court will convene to hear legal arguments, where Ibori will apply to have the case thrown out.

The Moment

Related stories: Ibori's sister convicted in london for money laundering

Ibori's bail revoked, re-arrested in Dubai

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