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James Ibori regains freedom from UK prison

By The Citizen
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Former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, has been released from prison after serving 13 years term in the UK.

According to reports, Ibori was released a few minutes past noon on Wednesday following a a court order.

Mr. Tony Elumenor, one of his aide was reported to have confirmed the release of the ex-governor who was jailed for money laundering.

Ibori was jailed for money laundering offences by the Southwark Crown Court in London in 2012 and served his jail term at Huntercoombe Prison in Oxfordshire.

The UK Royal Court of Justice ordered the immediate release of Ibori after serving half of his sentence and taking into account pre-trial detention.

Judge Juliet May (QC), who delivered the ruling, opposed the unlawful detention of the ex-governor, as the Home Office earlier took a decision not to release him.

In a chat, Ibori's counsel, Mr Jonathan Chike Epele, said: 'Today we won a victory at the Royal Court of Justice, London when we challenged the decision of the Home Office not to release Ibori who was due for release on the 20th of December, 2016.

'After serving his sentence, we were informed by the Home Office that he will not be released on the ground that his confiscation proceeding has not been concluded.'

He said he explained to the judge that there was no ground in law under which Ibori could be detained and the refusal of the Home Office for his refusal was unlawful.

Epele stated that the Home Office's position was totally unreasonable and was not in consonance with any known prison, immigration or confiscation law provision.

However, he said that the judge was able to see the true position and acted with complete fairness and expediency during the emergency hearing on Wednesday.

The Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, had, on December 17, 2009, discharged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the EFCC.

In 2010, his case was reopened by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

However, all attempts to arrest the ex-governor proved abortive as the 40 policemen guarding him at his country home in Oghara, Delta State, refused to allow the EFCC to arrest him.

Hundreds of youths in Delta State also confronted the EFCC operatives and prevented them from arresting the ex-governor by blocking the roads leading to his home with logs of wood.

Ibori fled Oghara in controversial circumstances and subsequently fled the country to Dubai, compelling the anti-graft agency to declare the fleeing ex-governor wanted.

The Federal Government could not apply for Ibori's extradition as there was no extradition treaty between the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria at the time.

However, the British Government sought Ibori's extradition and he was deported to the UK, where he was convicted and jailed for money laundering and fraud.

However, the EFCC took the matter to the Benin Division of the Appeal Court, where a three-man panel of justices on May 15, 2014, ruled that the ex-governor, who was serving a 13-year jail term in a London prison at the time, had a case to answer.

The EFCC subsequently said in a statement in 2014 that the ex-governor would be re-arrested upon the completion of his prison sentence in the UK.

The EFCC statement read, 'With this judgment, the coast is clear for Ibori to face trial in Nigeria upon the completion of his jail term in London.'

Some of the properties traced to the ex-governor include a house in Hampstead, North London, worth £2.2m; a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, worth £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa; a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000; a £120,000 Bentley Continental GT; and a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash. - Additional report from Thisday, Punch.