US Slams Restraining Order on Ibori’s $3m
United States has secured a restraining order against more than $3 million in corruption proceeds linked to former Delta State Governor, James Onanefe Ibori, who is currently serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom.
The US also said it was working with the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service to forfeit the corruption proceeds.
Announcing this on Monday, Assistant Attorney General, Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, said the restraining order came through an application to register and enforce two orders from UK courts.
The application, which seeks to restrain assets belonging to Ibori and his former lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, in US that were proceeds of corruption, was filed under seal on May 16, 2012, in US District Court in the District of Columbia.
Though, District Judge Royce Lamberth granted the application and issued a restraining order under seal five days after the application was made, the Justice Department was notified on Monday to unseal the restraining order.
The restraining order granted covers a mansion in Houston and two Merrill Lynch brokerage accounts.
In the application, Ibori was accused of misappropriating millions of dollars in Delta State funds and laundering those proceeds through a myriad of shell companies, intermediaries and nominees in several jurisdictions with the help of Gohil, who was sentenced by a British court to a 10-year jail term for money laundering and prejudicing a money laundering investigation.
Ibori, who served as governor between 1999 and 2007, was also accused of accumulating millions of dollars in assets in the US and UK, along with his associates, despite the Nigerian constitution’s prohibition of state governors from maintaining foreign bank accounts and serving as directors of private companies.
Breuer said: “Instead of working to benefit the people of the Niger- Delta, Governor Ibori pilfered state funds and accumulated immense wealth in the process”.
The Justice Department official said Ibori conspired with Gohil to funnel millions of dollars in corruption proceeds out of Nigeria, into bank accounts and assets maintained in the names of shell companies and nominees.
“Through the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, our message is clear: the United States will not be used as a safe haven for the ill-gotten gains of corrupt foreign officials,” Breuer said.
On his part, Morton said: “This serves as a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the US financial system.”
He added that US would continue to “investigate and prosecute those involved in such illicit activities and hold corrupt foreign officials accountable by denying them the satisfaction of their illegal earnings.”
US government also called on individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through institutions in the US to report such via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ibori case, which is part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, was investigated by ICE HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, HSI Asset Identification and Removal Group in Miami and HSI Attaché London.