The assets confiscation hearing of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori has taken a dramatic turn as the Judge, Anthony Pitts, granted the crown prosecution’s request to adjourn for retrial in order to call more evidences against the former governor after both the prosecution and defence have made their submissions in the hearing which entered its last day today.
Reacting to Judge Anthony Pitts’ judgment in favour of the prosecution asking for a halt of the court proceeding after all parties have made their submissions, James Ibori said ‘after 8 years of criminal investigations, five adjournments and over fifty trips to Nigeria, the prosecution failed to provide any tangible evidence to support their claim that I defrauded Delta State, their case collapsed to such an extent that on the last day of a three weeks hearing, they were humbled into making an application to the judge for permission to start again which he Judge unceremoniously granted’.
Judge Pitts acceding to the request of the prosecution and adjourning for the case to go to retrial said ‘I feel that this case inevitably requires decision that is probably based on proper evidence. This matter must proceed in a way to make proper decision….it seems to me to hear some more evidence’. Giving the crown prosecution the green light for his support for a need for the prosecution to go for more evidence to support their confiscation claim Judge Pitts said ‘I need to be in a much better position more than I am now to make a better position. I am going to adjourn this proceedings till early next year’.
As the confiscation hearing opens this Monday, the lead counsel to the former governor, QC Krolic as part of his skeleton legal argument before the judge against the guilty pleas of James Ibori during the trial said ‘the making of confiscation determinations is governed by different procedural requirement from trial procedures and different standard of proof to be applied’.
Krolic who maintains his ground nonetheless of James Ibori’s guilty pleas at trial said ‘when it comes to trial and sentencing, the court is not concerned with numbers’. Judge Pitts cuts in ‘number is also considered’. Explaining to the Judge, Krolic said ‘in confiscation, difference in number is important because the issues in confiscation are quantitative’.
The judge, Anthony Pitts, sensing QC Krolic was discrediting the evidence put forward during trial by the prosecution to prosecute Ibori, and knowing fully well that it lacks sufficient evidence to support the prosecution claims, Judge Antony Pitts cuts in again ‘I fully agree that we are not bound by the pleas of guilt here….but we are in a different situation’.
The Judge drawing from QC Krolic arguments that Ibori’s guilty pleas have to be supported with quantitave evidence as to his benefits in the prosecution’s allegation as set out in section 73 as the basis for consideration in this assets confiscation hearing Judge Anthony Pitts said ‘I am being asked by you to ignore his guilty pleas and look again if he is actually guilty, I know you are not saying that, but it really seems so close’.
QC Krolic unmoved by the Judge’s position went on to cite many authorities to support his case that a guilty plea in Confiscation does not mean that the defendant has the full benefits of the guilt, he said ‘the burden lies on the prosecution to proof to what extent the defendant has benefitted from the offence and in this case, we are relying on the prosecution’s own evidence that is set out in section 73 as provided in their 63,000 pages evidence before this court from the start of this proceedings’.
In his argument, Krolic relying on the the authority in the case of Mcintosh and Rezvi 2010 said ‘the court held in paragraph 22 that a plea of guilty did not amount to an admission from which a conclusive inferences can be drawn pursuant to section 10CJA 1967’. Krolick went on to say ‘where the defendant has pleaded guilty, it is important for the prosecution to prove their case, I have shown you that what the prosecution has put forward in their 63,000 pages trial bundle is not supported by any evidence’.
The lead Crown prosecutor Sasha Wass, who only turned up for the day’s proceedings after the court’s lunch break and briefed by her junior counsel, Esther Schutzer-Weissmann that the Judge was intending to adjourn the case for more evidence to reach a conclusion, Crown Prosecutor, Sasha Wass said ‘your honour we will ask that these proceedings are brought to a halt and list it for another hearing so that we may call more witnesses’.
QC Krolick not satisfied with the crown prosecution’s request for a halt of the court proceedings and allow for a retrial, he urged the Judge to continue to hear the case and give judgement based on the submissions made by both the prosecution and the defence.
QC Krolick said ‘we do not say that the conviction should go, we do not attack the conviction, we are only concerned by what has been obtained by Mr Ibori in connection to the charge. Trying to persuade the Judge not to adjourn for retrial as being pushed for by the prosecution having found out that they do not have the evidence to back up their confiscation claim, Krolick said ‘we are not even suggesting that witnesses are required…we are only saying that Ibori did not obtain what he has been accused of obtaining and that the prosecution do not have evidence to link funds from Delta State to him and that the court should make its decision on that basis’.
James Ibori’s lead counsel’s subtle persuasion could not persuade Judge Anthony Pitts against granting the prosecution’s request for adjournment and retrial in order to call more evidences against James Ibori. The court adjourns till Dec 19th 2013 for preliminary direction of the confiscation proceeding.
So far this has been very interesting – Follow up on the James Ibori’s confiscation hearing of Assests in London – Read All