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Theresa Nkoyo Ibori Tells Court She Is Innocent Of Charges

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LONDON, Nov 03, (THEWILL) - The highly anticipated trial of Mrs. Theresa Nkoyo Ibori, former Delta First Lady and wife of ex-governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, for alleged money laundering started on Monday, 01 November 2010 at the Southwark Crown Court in London. Also charged alongside Nkoyo, is Chief Ibori’s embattled London solicitor, Mr. Bhadresh Gohil.

At Tuesday’s session, the trial with case number T20087305 saw Mrs Ibori take the stand for the second time in two days, where she was cross-examined on a number of issues. It became obvious from the pattern of questioning that the prosecution wants the jury to believe that Nkoyi benefited from the proceeds of the laundered funds just like it successfully did in the conviction of Chief Ibori’s sister, Mrs. Christine Ibie-Ibori and mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo.

The first question was about an Amex card issued to the former governor by the US credit card company, America Express. The prosecution asked Mrs Ibori about a list of purchases and who authorised them and thereafter questioned her about a London Advance Chauffeur Service company which the family often used at the time Chief Ibori was governor. She was asked to name persons that used the service. Mrs Ibori said herself and her three daughters used the car limo service for airport pick-ups and drop-offs. She also said the service was used for transporting her girls to school. She also added that Chief Ibori's two older daughters from another relationship used the service. When asked if she knew if Ibori's sister and mistress Uju Geraldine used this service she said she was not sure about the later but suspected that the sister used the service a couple of times. Having established this fact, the prosecutor moved on to question her on the former governors automobiles.

First was the purchase of a Mercedes Maybach which she said she knew nothing about and a black Bentley coupe, which is presently parked inside the family home in highbrow Hampstead.

Photos of the Bentley were shown to the 11-member jury alongside a copy of an MOT dated February 2009. She was also asked about a Chrysler sedan with registration number LM51FRT which Mrs Ibori claimed the former governor purchased for her but one of his cousins took away for sometime and returned to say the car had been seized and crushed.

The ownership of a Jaguar 2000 was also sought and Mrs Ibori said the car was purchased for her by Chief Ibori over 10 years ago and confirmed that she still had the car adding that it was not confiscated as authorities didn’t see it as part of Ibori’s assets.

The prosecutors continued cross-examination and asked Mrs Ibori about the financial schedule it presented to the court. She was questioned about a number of accounts including a Nigerian Standard Trust Bank Naira account. The jury's attention was brought to a number of payments including a cheque that was cashed on March 12, 1999 in favour of Mrs Ibori for 900,000.00 Naira, approximately 6,279.00 British Pounds. She claimed she did not go to the bank to physically cash this cheque but it was cashed and given to her to plan for a party as Chief Ibori had just won the elections for the first time then and the funds were used to purchase refreshments for a victory party in Asaba, the state capital. She was also questioned about a certain 1,000,000.00 Naira transaction which she said she couldn’t recall the details.

The prosecutor also asked about monies and transactions done on her current and savings account with Abbey National Bank of London. A withdrawal of 30,000.00 Pounds with a chequebook which Mrs Ibori claimed was money sent to her by Chief Ibori to paint and furnish the new house they had just acquired at that time. She was also questioned on transfers from her savings to currents account as the jury had picked up on a number of payments into theses accounts. She was asked by the prosecutors where the funds had come from and she said she usually travelled with 2,000 – 3,000 pounds when she would come from Nigeria into London and would the money into her Abbey accounts on arrival. She was also asked about a certain payment which she claimed was done to payoff a friend's child school fees.

There were questions on water bill payments and a 34,000.00 Pounds transaction in the account which she said was paid in by Chief Ibori and was subsequently used to purchase and ship household furniture to Nigeria. She added that Chief Ibori or his uncle gave her funds when in London. The prosecutor's questioned her on the sale of a Mercedes Benz car for the sum of 24,000.00 Pounds on September 12, 2005 which she agreed she arranged at Chief Ibori’s instruction.

Mrs. Ibori was also questioned on Mr. Gohil Bhadresh and his role in the payment of the children's school fees, tenancy agreements on the property on Great Grant Street and the exchange of emails over invoices for the house at 20 King Alfred Mellow. Also, there was a money transfer of 5,000.00 Pounds which Mrs Ibori could not remember details of and payment of council tax. She was asked the reason for asking the solicitor to pay these bills and her reply was that she was told by Chief Ibori that he had provided funds for the payment of bills through Mr Gohil.

The prosecutor then moved to question her on the purchase of the property on Dorset, close to her daughters’ school. She claimed the idea of acquiring that property was James's idea, even though she was the one that searched for the property in the market and told James Ibori she had found one and thereafter went to see Mr Gohil about it but added that she was not sure who between herself and James gave the first instructions to Mr Gohil for the purchase. Mrs Ibori said during the time of purchase of this property she was told by Chief James Ibori that it was being bought in the name of Chief Ibori's company, Boyd properties only to discover later during the proceedings of this trial that the property was not in that name.

The prosecutor then questioned her on the signature on a letter in the name of Mr and Mrs Ibori for the purchase of a King Alfred property on June 20, 2005. But Mrs Ibori claimed she did not sign off on this property and that there was no way she could have as she was out of the country on that date and had no idea who had signed off the document regarding this property and the prosecutor asked if it was because she arrived in London on 5, May 2005 and left 23, May 2005 and she confirmed this by answering ‘yes.’ The prosecutor also asked if she knew anything about the cheque issued for the purchase of the property by Miss Okorokwo but her answer was a 'no.'

She was questioned about how she knew Mrs Okoronkwo in 2002 and her being a mistress to James Ibori. Mrs Ibori said that she did not know of ‘this woman until 2005’ when she heard rumours that she was Chief Ibori's mistress and had only seen her during the first court hearing of this case. She was questioned on where James got the funds to acquire the property and she responded by saying she had no idea.

The prosecutor then moved to question her on a number of other issues like a letter from the solicitor, Mr Gohil stating that his services are not financial as he was not a bank to do transfers for the Ibori's and advised the Ibori’s to claim the remainder of their funds left in his care.

Also, an account in AIDT under the name of Nkoyo Ibori with three signatures of hers when the account was opened came up. Mrs Ibori said she had no knowledge of such an account and did not sign any of the documents relating to it. The prosecutor then went further and pointed out that it was her passport number, email address and phone number that was on the account opening form which she confirmed but maintained that she knew nothing about the account.

Thereafter, trial judge, Christopher Hardy adjourned proceedings to today, Wednesday, November 03, 2010 where Mrs. Ibori’s questioning is expected to resume.