A judge has ordered a dishonest London solicitor who owns a £3.25 million Chelsea mansion to turn over more than £28 million to law enforcement for his involvement in a huge scam run by a Nigerian politician.
James Ibori, a former cashier at Wickes in Ruislip who rose to become the state governor of Nigeria and owns a mansion in Hampstead, stole a large amount of money that was laundered by Bhadresh Gohil, who also has two mansions in India for £1 million each and millions more in investments.
Gohil, who has already served a ten year prison sentence for his criminal activities, used his wealth to acquire a £3.25 million in Sydney Street in Chelsea, a flat in Mumbai, another property close to the India city, as well as other assets.
But he will now have to surrender them all or face being sent back to prison for another six years after being handed a £28.19 million confiscation order by a judge at Southwark Crown Court.
Anti-corruption campaigners hailed the order as a significant victory in the battle to stop corrupt white-collar professionals abusing their positions to help organised crime.
Dr Helen Taylor, from Spotlight on Corruption, said that it “sends a powerful message that those who conspire with corrupt political elites will be held to account” after “the extraordinary lengths to which Gohil has gone to keep hold of his ill-gotten gains.”
She added: “This confiscation order is a significant milestone in these marathon legal proceedings to recover the vast sums of public money that were stolen from the Nigerian people.”
The Crown Prosecution Service and the National Crime Agency, which have together also secured a £101 million confiscation order against Ibori and another, which has already been paid, of £2.8 million against his associate Udoamaka Onuigbo, also expressed their satisfaction after fighting for years in a torturous legal battle to achieve the repayment orders.
They said that Gohil, who was convicted in 2010 of money laundering, prejudicing a money laundering investigation and conspiracy to defraud, had used “a myriad of offshore companies and bank accounts as well as UK-based entities” to help Ibori launder money stolen from Nigeria’s Delta state where he had become governor after a remarkable rise from his previously humble background in London.
The scam, which was uncovered after a Met police investigation, involved the fraudulent sale and purchase of shares in a mobile phone company that he owned and resulted in huge sums being stolen.
Ibori was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2012 after admitting offences of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to make false instruments.
Ibori, who the court found made £118 million, used the money to finance a high-living lifestyle, while Gohil, who was found by the judge to have made £42 million from his crime, also splashed out.
The court heard that as well as his properties his other assets include frozen bank accounts and a Foxtons rent account for his Chelsea townhouse, as well as money in companies and investments.
Suzanne Foster, from the NCA said the millions of pounds obtained through the confiscation orders would eventually be sent back to Nigeria to be invested in public services there.
“This very significant amount of money was confiscated following an extensive investigation. Ibori was powerful and influential, but he was not above the law. Now the life he built from criminal enterprises has been taken from him.
“This confiscation order demonstrates our determination to pursue criminally obtained assets that have been invested in the UK.
“Our work to repatriate these sums shows that we do not stop at the point of conviction, and the NCA will do everything we can to strip criminals of their assets.
“We will continue to work with partners to tackle the global threat of money laundering, and target anyone that undermines the integrity of our financial system.”
Adrian Foster, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s proceeds of crime division, added: “The amount that both defendants have benefited from their criminality has been highly contested, but thanks to the hard work of our dedicated team and that of the National Crime Agency, we have been able to uncover the full extent of their corruption.”