London court orders Nigerian ex-governor Ibori’s lawyer to pay $36 mln

A London court on Monday ordered an ex-lawyer of former Nigerian oil state governor James Ibori to pay around 28 million pounds (around $36 million) for helping hide funds gained illegally.

Bhadresh Gohil was convicted in 2010 of 13 counts of money laundering and other offences linked to his role helping Ibori, who was governor of Delta State in southern Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, hide the proceeds from criminal activities.

Gohil, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 and served half of his sentence, was ordered on Monday to pay just over 28 million pounds or face a further six-year sentence, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Office (CPS) said in a statement.

The decision comes after Ibori, who abused his office to get rich and laundered millions in Britain and elsewhere, was on Friday ordered to pay 101.5 million pounds ($130 million) or face an eight-year sentence.

Ibori, who is in Nigeria, said he would appeal.

His confiscation order is the second largest made under Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 since it came into force, according to data obtained by Reuters from the CPS under a Freedom of Information law. Gohil’s is the fifth largest.

With its highly developed financial and legal services and lucrative property market, Britain is a global money-laundering hub, but it is rare for the foreign kleptocrats it attracts to be prosecuted and Ibori’s case remains an outlier.

The confiscation process has taken over a decade since Ibori’s conviction because of lengthy court delays and legal wrangling in London.

The National Crime Agency (NCA), which was involved in the process, said the case demonstrated its determination to pursue criminally obtained assets that have been invested in Britain.

“Ibori’s funds will be returned to the Nigerian government where they will be reinvested into public services,” said NCA Branch Commander Suzanne Foster.

In 2021, Britain returned 4.2 million pounds that had been confiscated from Ibori’s ex-wife and his sister, who also served jail time for helping him.

Helen Taylor, senior legal researcher at campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, said the orders represented a significant milestone in the marathon legal proceedings, but enforcement and repatriation would be challenging.

“After more than a decade of delay, it’s essential that the UK now moves swiftly to ensure the transparent and accountable return of these confiscated assets to Nigeria,” she said.

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