The U.K. will return $5.8 million that an ex-Nigerian Governor allegedly stole; this comes as part of the deal between the two countries.
Ex-governor of the Delta state James Ibori, along with his associates, allegedly laundered 160 million in Euros and used the stolen money to purchase property in the U.K. and Nigeria, luxurious cars, and a jet plane. Ibori has a lengthy criminal history dating back to the early 90s. He started off stealing money from a cash register to using public funds for his personal benefit.
The law caught up to Ibori in 2012 when he was convicted by a U.K. court for money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, and forgery and sentenced to 13 years in prison. And in 2016, he was released and deported to Nigeria.
In 2016, the Nigerian and U.K. governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which details both countries’ commitment to anti-corruption efforts by returning “the seized proceeds of bribery or corruption in a responsible and transparent way.” And nearly four years later, on March 9, 2021, and for the first time, the two countries agreed to return the Ibori’s stolen funds and allocate them to develop public infrastructure in Nigeria.
A detailed budget plan was set to ensure all of the recovered assets would be used for the public’s benefit. According to the press release by the U.K. government, projects include “boosting support to substantial building work for the Lagos to Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja to Kano road and the second Niger Bridge.”
The Nigerian government vowed to use money with transparency and for the public’s benefit. The U.K. also stated that annual accountability reports would be made public. These reports will contain the budget plan and detailed account of how the money will be used.
The money was retrieved by the U.K.’s various law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Service, National Crime Agency (NCA), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and supported by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Home Office.
This action set a precedent for future agreements under the MoU. Adrian Foster, the Chief Crown Prosecutor, said in a press release statement: “Corruption anywhere is corrosive and has a drastic impact on the lives of the people where money is embezzled from. Where there is international corruption carried out from England and Wales, we will robustly prosecute and deprive individuals of their ill-gotten gains.”
The return of part of the looted funds is a positive step towards asset recovery.