By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) -Britain will seek to confiscate 101.5 million pounds ($130 million) from James Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor who abused his office to get rich and laundered millions in Britain and elsewhere, under a court order issued in London on Friday.
Here is a timeline of Ibori’s complicated legal and political history:
EARLY CONVICTIONS IN BRITAIN
In the early 1990s, Ibori was living in London with his wife Theresa Ibori and for a time he worked as a shop assistant at a Wickes home improvements chainstore. The couple were arrested, convicted of theft and fined for trying to steal goods from the store.
Ibori was also convicted of possessing stolen goods after being caught with another man’s American Express card at London’s Euston train station.
POLITICAL RISE IN NIGERIA
In Lagos later in the 1990s, Ibori became close friends with Major Hamza al-Mustapha, who was Chief Security Officer to General Sani Abacha, the then military dictator of Nigeria. The connection helped him to get involved in politics and business.
In 1999, as Nigeria transitioned to democracy after Abacha’s death, Ibori was elected governor of Delta State, one of Nigeria’s top three oil-producing states. He served two consecutive four-year terms, stepping down in May 2007.
From 2005, Ibori was the subject of a joint investigation by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and London’s Metropolitan Police.
Investigators found properties he secretly owned in Britain, South Africa and the United States and evidence of his lavish lifestyle, including American Express credit card bills showing he routinely spent tens of thousands of dollars per month on luxury hotels, shopping, restaurants and night clubs.
$15 MILLION BRIBE
Then EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu alleged that Ibori had offered him $15 million in cash in April 2007 to drop the investigation. Ribadu said he pretended to accept but instead deposited the cash at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Ibori has denied this in statements to Nigerian media but has refused to be cross-examined in court in Britain. Ribadu testified about it under oath in a London court and British judges accepted his evidence as true.
EXTRADITION, JAIL AND HOMECOMING
In 2010, Ibori left Nigeria for Dubai. Britain requested his extradition and in 2011 he was flown to London and imprisoned.
In 2012, he pleaded guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court to 10 charges of fraud and money-laundering and was sentenced to 13 years in jail. Britain hailed the case as a landmark in the fight against corruption.
Ibori was released in December 2016, having served half of his sentence before and after conviction, and returned to Nigeria in early 2017. He was filmed being welcomed by cheering supporters in Delta State.
British prosecutors began trying to confiscate Ibori’s assets in 2013 but the process was repeatedly derailed by parallel, related legal action and by lengthy court delays.
Ibori and several co-defendants who had served jail time for assisting in his money-laundering launched appeals against their convictions, alleging that the investigation was tainted because of corruption in the ranks of the Metropolitan Police.
Court of Appeal judges rejected the claims and upheld the convictions in 2018.