LONDON PROSECUTION SEEKS IBORI'S CONTINUED CUSTODY TILL NOV

By NBF News
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London's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has asked the Southwark Crown Court, London to continue remanding former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, in custody until a trial date is decided. The ex-governor's current custody limit ends October 14, but by law, a court can choose to honour or disregard a request to extend it.

This is coming at a time supporters and opponents of the former governor clashed outside the London court yesterday when his case came up for mention.

Confirming the request for the continued remand of Ibori in custody, prosecutor Ms Sasha Wass said, yesterday: 'We have put in a written application…on the 14th of July,' adding that they want Ibori in custody 'until the 21st of November, after the first likely trial date.'

Presiding judge, Geoffrey Rivlin, noted: 'The court is very concerned about custody times. It must be understood that he is likely to remain in custody.' He adjourned hearing to September 5, where both legal teams are expected to seek a trial date and proffer arguments for and against the prosecution of Ibori and Ghanaian Ellias Nimoh Preko, his alleged associate, in one case.

Rivlin also announced that Judge Anthony Pitts would preside over the matter henceforth. 'I am informed the learned judge is going to make himself available on that day through January until such time as the trial has been concluded,' he said.

At the request of his lawyers and with the approval of the court, Ibori was not present during yesterday's proceedings in case numbers T20117192 and T20107446. This is because the court is still in the process of determining what date his trial will commence and if he is to be tried alongside Preko.

'Mr. Ibori should be tried with Mr. Preko. Mr. Preko faces a trial fixed for November, where only he is charged with money laundering of Mr. Ibori's proceeds of crime,' Wass told the court at the preliminary hearing of both cases yesterday.

She added that Ibori would be facing 14-count charge of money laundering and fraud. However, further details and figures are yet to be given in court.

Meanwhile, London policemen yesterday had a hectic time containing about 30 people in support and against Ibori, when his case came up.

At about 11am, when court proceedings were rounded off, protestors wearing T-shirts with Mr. Ibori's picture and the words, Free Ibori, waved placards and posed for photographs. Their placards read: Stop the trial of Ibori associates now! and Niger Deltans want Ibori Home!

The protesters were joined by another group, in traditional attire, who came in singing Catch am, Catch am, thief, thief thief! from the famous Fela Anikulapo-Kuti song.

The anti-Ibori groups accused those supporting the former governor of being hired, with their leader, Mr. Emmanuel Ohai loudly saying: 'After his jail term in London, Ibori will be taken to Dubai, where his hands will be cut off.'

Replying the anti-Ibori group, the former governor's supporter, who declined to give their names, said their counterparts were 'hungry people.'

While the two groups were trading words, a policeman immediately ordered them to stay on different sides of the steps leading to the courthouse.

Nearby, tourists who had visited the London Bridge and Thames River stared and whipped out camera phones to record the scene.

Ibori's travails with the British authorities began in 2007, shortly after he left office. The London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced investigations into his time in office. That same year, in October 2007 a UK court froze $35million assets allegedly belonging to him. Currently, Ibori's wife and sister, as well as two business associates have been tried and jailed under the UK's Proceeds of Crime Act.

From the mood in the court to the protestors outside, it is clear that as this case unfolds, Ibori's fans, foes, and journalists are most certainly saving the date for September. They are certain he will walk into the dock. For sure they can expect to see him once again raise his hands in greeting as he enters and leaves the courtroom. He's expected to be in court on September 5, as ordered by Judge Rivlin.