The London Southwark Crown Court has been told that the abrupt manner the asset confiscation hearing of former Delta State Governor, James Ibori ended in London and the order for retrial will have cost implication for the court.
Making his case clear to the court for granting the crown prosecution’s request to halt the assets confiscation proceedings after three weeks of legal arguments between the defence and the prosecution and submissions made by the two sides, QC Krolick told Judge Anthony Pitts that ‘there will be cost implication’. Preparations for the abruptly ended proceedings started in January 2013 leading to the last three weeks in September 2013 and a review of 63,000 pages of prosecution statements by the defence team. Pushing aside all the efforts of the defence team to present the position of the defendant, James Ibori against the confiscation request order being made by the prosecution should indeed have cost implication which if there is, will be borne by innocent and hard working British tax payers who will be paying for the crown prosecution’s shoddy preparation and lack of tangible evidence to support their confiscation claims and accusation against the former Delta State governor.
Judge Anthony Pitts of court 14 at the Southwark Crown Court in London rather than give judgement or give a date for judgement after three weeks of legal battle and submission between the British Crown Prosecution and James Ibori’s defence team, ordered the retrial of the case from the start and granted the Crown Prosecution’s request for more witnesses to be called and more evidences to be brought in for him to make a better decision on the ongoing assets confiscation hearing. Giving his order for retrial, Judge Pitts said ‘this matter must proceed in a way that I can make proper decision’.
What will ‘proper decision’ mean in this case? This is a one million pounds question that must be answered. The British Crown prosecution presented in their trial bundle 63, 000 pages of statements, flew in former Nigeria’s EFCC’s chairman, Nuhu Ribadu to give evidence in court, made over 50 trips to Nigeria, had boxes of documents taken from the government of Delta State in the course of investigation, investigated James Ibori’s alleged criminality against Delta State for over 8 years with unhindered access to government information and supported by the government of Nigeria, jailed the former governor for 13 years on guilty pleas, jailed his sister Christie Ibori, his wife Theresa Ibori for five years each, yet, the prosecution still forced the Judge to adjourn and restart the asset confiscation hearing which had concluded after three weeks of legal argument and final submission for lack of sufficient evidence and witnesses that would enable the judge arrive at a ‘proper decision’.
Ibori’s defence counsels QC Ivan Krolic and Kennedy Tolbot made robust arguments against the crown prosecution confiscation request order of £90,000,000.00 (Ninety Million Pound) using an independent UK forensic accountant expert and relying on the prosecution own trial documents which contained 63,000 statements. The defence team showed the court that none of the 63,000 documents in the trial bundle has evidence that link Delta State Funds to any of James Ibori’s account. During cross examination, Met Police lead financial investigator, DC Peter Clark agreed that there was no direct payments from Delta State to any of the alleged foreign accounts of the former governor.
Krolic: ‘it is denied that funds going to Stanhope investment account is directly and indirectly from Delta State, there are no direct payments or indirect payment from Delta state to this account’.
DC Clark: ‘Not directly from Delta State’
The inability of the crown prosecution to establish a proof against James Ibori should not be the fault of Mr Ibori neither should it be the fault of his defence counsel. After all, section 73 of the Criminal Act upon which the truncated confiscation hearing was based placed the burden of proof on the prosecution according to QC Krolic and not the defence.
QC Krolick asserting his position before the judge while the hearing was on said ‘in the present case, the evidential matters relied on by the defence are all contained in the prosecution evidence served before the trial and served by the prosecution in support of the confiscation application. The defence are thus entitled to point to evidence which counter the crown’s assertions relating to criminal benefit, or which indicate that assertions made by the prosecution in their openings to the court are either contrary to their own evidence or made without support’.
Indeed, the defence did prove to the court that the assertions made by the prosecution are without support and tangible evidence.
In this instance, one would have expected Judge Antony Pitts to give his judgment based on the submissions of the two sides. Reviewing the situation, legal analysts and social commentators in the the UK noted that a call for adjournment and retrial based on the crown prosecution’s request to call for more evidences and witnesses to support their initial assertions because they lack proofs and legal support would be considered a waste of legal preparations for the case that started in January leading to the last three weeks of the hearing, a waste of British public funds being deployed into this case, a waste of funds to put the defence team together, a waste of the journalists’ resources who committed their full time to the hearing for three weeks and it could give ordinary people the feeling that the legal system may have been biased.
The assets confiscation hearing is now listed for preliminary hearing on 19th Dec for possible determination of when the full hearing will start in 2014.