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Anybody who has been really conversant with the workings of the British court system and the politics of the on-going case against Chief James Onanefe Ibori, would have known a long time ago that all is stacked up against the former Governor of Delta state. And what stands against him is not evidence but the para or extra-legal matters and the very politics of the British system.

The above makes the recent jubilation in the Ibori camp in Nigeria very intriguing. It appears that there has been a disconnect between the legal team in London and Ibori’s supporters in Nigeria who became jubilant the moment the London Metropolitan Police dropped all corruption charges against their champion; Ibori. Even in London, the favourite topic of discussion in Nigerian gatherings recently became the impending freedom that seemed certain to come Ibori’s way. Of course, in normal times, and in purely judicial matters where nothing but justice is at stake, Ibori would have been coasting home to a land-mark legal victory by now, as the case against him would have become truly woolly if not totally withdrawn – with the corruption charges dropped. But the case facing Ibori in London is so multi-faceted and goes beyond the search for justice in a purely legal tangle.

Even many who want to see Ibori roasted have joined in this belief that Ibori would soon be home at Oghara. To them, if Ibori has been accused for seven long years of massive and debilitating corruption against Delta state, and then just on the eve of the case being heard in an open court, the same prosecution team who had broadcast the allegation abroad, of their own volition removed that same corruption charges, then the case has been demolished by the same prosecution.

Well, appearances could often be deceptive; and this is one of those times when this saying holds true. But Nigerians have exhibited, so far, a compelling misunderstanding of the nuances and the extra-legal issues that not only brought up this case, but has been driving it – towards a pre-determined conclusion. The legal strategy aside, we have to accept that the UK and the Nigerian Establishments have played a pivotal role in this case against Ibori.

It is now a known fact that the Department of International Development (“DFID”) have funded this case against Ibori, spending over £14 million so far.

The investigation against Ibori code-named “Operation Tureen” commenced in March 2005 - at the instigation of the EFCC who invited officers from Specialist Crime Directorate 6 (“SCD6”), to Nigeria. The unit was especially set-top to deal with anti-corruption issues by politically exposed persons. Whilst this unit forms part of the Metropolitan Police, it is situated at New Scotland Yard. So, in the UK, the investigation has appropriated the interests of several government agencies.

Now the question to be asked is this; why did the London Police not drop the entire case if it did not find any evidence of corruption against Ibori? This question is akin to another; why Nigerian government was still after Ibori even after Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Asaba Federal High Court ruled that Ibori had no case to answer. But while the Appeal against that judgment the EFCC filed at Benin Division Court of Appeal was yet to be heard, Ibori was declared wanted, for reasons yet unspecified - even years after that declaration? The logical answer to the second question should be that if the Appeal case was allowed to be heard, it was likely that Ibori would have been cleared yet again, and that would have had a real impact on any London court, unlike the Justice Awokulehin’s ruling that was discredited through media attacks. I say this because the London prosecutors also dropped the corruption charges which Awokulehin had shot down for want of evidence; so both agreed as far as corruption goes.

So, by preventing the hearing of that Appeal case, the Nigerian government collaborated in getting Ibori to London. Once Ibori arrived London, the case against him changed from that of grand corruption to mere money laundering. Instead of the hundreds of millions of dollars that had been bandied about that he allegedly misappropriated, the talk now is about London properties and aircraft he is alleged to own. When Ibori appears in court, he will not be asked about corruption or misappropriation of state funds while in office but about properties he owns in the UK, his Children's school and their fees, his life style and his previous mortgage applications. Yet, what Britain sent to Dubai to press for Ibori’s extradition was corruption, corruption, corruption.

Most tellingly was this: from Page 36 of the deposition: “In the UK the evidence shows that the criminal nature of the funds in question can be proved by direct evidence that Mr. Ibori was acting in contravention of the rules governing the office of State Governor, abusing the rights and obligations of the position; and by evidence that shows that Mr. Ibori and his family were able to benefit from rapid and unaccounted enrichment over time when he was in office…”

All that is gone. Now, what he will face is money laundering! He is in London, where the Nigerian and the British Establishment want him. Alas, the Nigerians who mistake the Nigerian judiciary system, where you cannot prove money laundering case without its predicate crime of corruption for the British jurisdiction, this means that an essential ingredient of any money laundering offence could not be established without the predicate crime. Put differently, there must first exist a crime or a criminal act before any money laundering can take place. If the money is clean, one can do whatever one wishes. In this Ibori case, the Met police has no evidence of the predicate crime, and so has dropped corruption charges. But this does not spell Uhuru for Ibori because in 2008, the case of R v Anwoir was heard in Britain. This matter was about a man who had with him a briefcase containing $1 million and could not explain where the money had come from as he entered the UK. It allowed the UK prosecution to suggest that since he was unable to explain the money’s source the only proper inference was that the funds were the proceeds of crime. The man was convicted. So Britain knew where it was headed all along!

This is now what Ibori is up against; prosecution will rely on inference, not evidence beyond reasonable doubt – which a corruption charge requires. What is required in proving an inference case is just to sway a jury and the Judge.

Now Britain has been involved in this case through its various agencies. DFID, an international development body has funded the investigation. The case has become Britain’s trophy case against corruption in Africa, even though corruption charges have been dropped or were never there from day one but were used to manipulate public opinion. Ibori represents not just a man but a species; the African big man, chief/politician of the particularly virulent Nigerian kind, one which Nigeria has shown its willingness to sacrifice. For this the Bristish will get Nigeria’s gratitude!

Any Nigerian who thinks that the UK system will allow such a person to walk free from its court and then give rise to lengthy inquiries of misuse of government resources does not know Britain. Any British jury will find any Nigerian politician guilty 20 times over, especially after two others, Joshua Dariye and Deprieye Alameyesiegha disgraced Britain and returned to Nigeria. The Nigerian government did not send any of them back nor did Britain ask for them to be extradited to the UK despite their known whereabouts in Nigeria. Ibori was the one the Nigerian government chose to sacrifice; and Britain will surely accept that sacrifice – to assuage its good name and make a public statement while remaining in the good books of the Nigerian administration by doing President Jonathan a favour. Because of this, Ibori’s fate is sealed. Personally, I have no problem with this; Ibori is just one out of many politicians that needs to be dragged before the law and dealt with somehow, anyhow, including using lies, politics and media manipulation, but they should be dealt with; that is all that matters.

Now, it is Ibori’s turn, may the turn of all the others not be far behind. I hope this will put an end to the bellyaching about proving corruption charges against him. Prosecution is about sending an accused to jail; how that is done does not really matter as long as the intended aim is met.

Written By Ibinabo Dagogo Douglas

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