Ibori Associate’s Trial in Southwark Crown Court, London: Day 5. - by
Day 5, 25th September 2009 . Proceeding in Court 8 began shortly after 10:00am with theLeadProsecutor, Lady M. Wass QC, engaging the Judge in a brief discussion about the Orderrestricting press report of the case in the jurisdiction of England & Wales until early January 2010 following an application by WSJ. Whilst it was acknowledged that coverage of the court's proceedings could be reported outside of England and Wales, the contention was that the press in other countries might place reports on the web making it accessible in the court's jurisdiction anyway. Also, it was considered that persons attending the court's proceedings might directly place their reports on the web.
After some debate with both the Prosecutors and Defence Counsels, the Judge ruled that in the absence of expert directive or precedent, he was happy for the restrictions to stay as they currently are: No direct or hard copy report of the case in England & Wales for now, but the case could be reported elsewhere including the internet.
Then there was an application by one of the Defendants' (Onuigbo-Okoronkwo) counsels, Mr Owen. He argued that because Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo was extradited from France to England to face trial, that her case would be prejudiced by not being tried in Nigeria. Her counsel therefore asked that the case against her be struck out and she should be sent to Nigeria to face trial there.
The Judge in his ruling noted that Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo had being trying to evade justice and had avoided the UK. He also said that the trial in Nigeria is nowhere near starting. The judge told the Defence Counsel that the court was not prepared to follow him “down a legal labyrinth” as his submission amounted to a waste of process. He therefore rejected the application.
The Defence Counsel voiced the desire to appeal but accept to initially submit further written argument to the Prosecutor and Judge by Monday morning.
At this point, there was a short adjournment.
On resumption, the court was addressed by another Defence Counsel, Mr Trollope, who submitted that the source of the funds Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo was alleged to have laundered for Ibori must be proved first before his client can be tried. He said the English financial authorities (SOCA) were first notified by Ibori's bank, Barclays Bank, that Ibori was moving a lot of suspicious money using MER Engineering Ltd. SOCA then informed Nigeria's EFCC who then began investigating the sources of Ibori's funds. He said that if Ibori's criminality is not proved first, then Onuigbo-Okoronkwo cannot be tried.
The Defence Counsel claimed that Ibori is currently undergoing trial in Asaba, Nigeria and that that case was adjourned from earlier in the year until September 2009. He further stated that Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo has been awaiting trial in England for 3½ years. He maintained that this has stalled Ibori's own trial in Nigeria.
The Defence Counsel went on to show that most of the 170 odd charges preferred against Ibori in Nigeria are linked to his client. That Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo is adjudged Ibori's banker and that she directly laundered monies for him in England. He therefore posited that Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo ought not to be on trial in England when the principal defendant, Ibori, is yet to be tried or to have the allegations – upon which the case in England is built – against him proved. He submitted that Ibori be tried before his client for 3 reasons:
1. That if Ibori is acquitted in Nigeria, then the whole London case would collapse;
2. That if the London defendants were tried and convicted and Ibori is acquitted in Nigeria, then counsels would have no choice but to move for their convictions to be squashed as their trial would then be deemed unsafe;.
3. That prospective witnesses who haven't given evidence in the principal matter would be summoned to give evidence in England. He claimed that this would be profoundly wrong and anomalous as evidence would be totally circumstantial.
After this, there was another short adjournment.
When court resumed for the final session of the day, Defence Counsel applied to the Judge for reporting condition on Saturdays for his client be removed. He said that Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo was initially arrested in 2006 and has been on Police bail. But as the trial approached, she was required to report on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at Colindale Police Station. Since the commencement of the trial, the Mondays and Wednesdays reporting has been waived as she would be in court anyway, but her counsel wanted the Saturday reporting lifted as well.
The Prosecution opposed this submission and were worried about the “salami slicing” away of bail conditions by Defence lawyers.
The Judge declined the application. He said the charges against Onuigbo-Okoronkwo were quite serious and she must continue to report to the Police station on Saturdays.
The court than adjourned until Monday 28th September 2009 at 10:30am.
A lot of Nigerians attended the court proceeding. A large number of those that turned up were members of the Respect Nigerians Coalition (RNC). There were also representatives from the Nigerian Liberty Forum and others. The Ibori family and their supporters also turned out in large numbers. There was a fracas as someone on the Ibori side got a bit aggressive and wanted to assault Dare Lasisi (a Newspaper Reporter) again, but RNC members and others stood up to them and he quietly slipped away towards the station whilst posing for the camera! The defendants and their supporters tarried to leave the court premises as they tried to avoid other Nigerians waiting outside. They did not succeed and eventually came out, engaging some of the Nigerians in conversations and one, believed to be Ms Onuigbo-Okoronkwo, actually smiled, adopted a model pose for the camera and asked that her name be got right. RNC is appealing to Nigerians in the London area to endeavour to attend this trial on a daily basis. The trial has been slated to last for 6 weeks. RNC is currently attempting to put a rota together for “regular” attendees. This call has even become more imperative as the Nigerian people are being substantially mis-informed through a media campaign of mis-information orchestrated by some paid media aide.
Michael Egbejumi-David can be reached @ [email protected]| Article source