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Former Wickes cashier who became governor of oil-rich Nigerian state was part of scam which plundered £157m from poor

  • James Ibori pocketed £50m which he used to fund life of luxury
  • Bought private jet, mansions and top boarding school places for his kids
  • Went from £15k DIY store job to leader with presidential aspirations
  • Tried to pay $15m bribe to government official to make corruption investigation 'go away'

By Simon Tomlinson

UPDATED: 09:43, 17 April 2012

A former Wickes cashier who became governor of an oil-rich Nigerian state was part of a scam which plundered £157million from some of the poorest people in the world.

James Ibori personally pocketed £50million which he splashed on a life of luxury including his own private jet.

Ibori, 49, an ex-governor of Delta State with presidential aspirations, stole public funds for a 'lavish and expensive lifestyle'.


Playboy lifestyle: Former Wickes cashier James Ibori, 49, has admitted a fraud totalling more than £50million which he committed while a former Nigerian state governor

His spending included a portfolio of luxury houses, a £12.6million private jet, a fleet of top-of-the-range cars, top UK boarding school places for his children, first-class travel and posh hotels.

As his people struggled in poverty, Ibori’s monthly credit card bills alone topped £125,000.


It is estimated that the embezzlement from the Delta state is yet unquantified, but could exceed £157million which was laundered in London through a number of off-shore companies.

The case at Southwark Crown Court was delayed this morning after a ruckus broke out in the corridor and police had to be called in to control crowds of his supporters.


Luxury: Exclusive home that Ibori bought in Hampstead, north London, with £2.2million in cash in 2001


Fleet of cars: The former Nigerian state governor owned a number of cars including this Bentley Continental worth in the region of £150,000


Extraordinary extravagance: Ibori owned a fleet of armoured Range Rovers - including this one - bought with the proceeds of his £50million fraud

Prosecutor Sasha Wass was thrown to the floor as supporters tried to rush into the tiny courtroom.

She told the hearing: 'The defendant was governor of the Delta State, one of the richest oil producing states in Nigeria, between November 1999 and May 2007.

'It is the prosecution case that during his two terms in office he deliberately and systematically defrauded the people whose interests he had been elected to represent he went on to launder the money he stole in this country.'

He inflated state contracts, took kickbacks, and through bent employees stole cash straight from the State accounts and secreted the cash into off-shore accounts across the globe.

Instead of using the money to help his people, he bought a £2.2 mansion in Hampstead with cash, a house in Regents Park, a flat in St John's Wood, a £311,000 home in Dorset and a £3.2million mansion in Johannesburg, as well as a house in Houston.


Fraudsters: Solicitor Bhadresh Gohil (left) and Ibori's wife Theresa (right) who have already been convicted of money laundering in the scam


Convicted: Ibori's sister Christine Ibori-Idie (left) and his mistress Udoamaka Oniugbo (right) have also been found guilty of money laundering

His 'greed and acquisitiveness' was also represented by his fleet of armoured Range Rovers worth £600,000, a £120,000 Bentley, a Jaguar for his Hampstead home and a Mercedes Maybach bought for 407,000 Euros that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa, Ms Wass said.

At an earlier hearing, Ibori pleaded guilty to ten offences - eight of money laundering, one of conspiracy to defraud Delta State and one of conspiracy to forge.

Nigerian-born Ibori moved to the UK in the 1980s where he married his wife, Theresa, and worked as a cashier at Wickes in Ruislip, Middlesex, earning around £15,000 a year before the couple were arrested for theft from the store in 1990 and fined £300.

A year later, he had another brush with the law when he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card and fined £100 before he moved back to his homeland and started as a ‘policy consultant’ for President Sani Abacha’s regime before climbing the ladder of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

After lying to the independent Nigerian Election Commission by using a fake date of birth gained through a false passport to hide his previous convictions and financial status, Ibori was elected as state governor for Delta State from 1999 - giving him immunity from prosecution for his two terms until 2007.



Multiple residences: Homes Ibori owned in Lagos, Nigeria (left) and Kenton, north-west London (right)



Homes: An apartment owned by Ibori's sister Christine Ibori-Ibie in Brent, north-west London (left) and a London property (right) owned by his mistress Udoamaka Onuigbo

Ms Wass described it as 'planned fraud'. She said: 'He didn’t accidentally become involved in a pre-existing corruption, he changed his date of birth in 1996.

'From the moment he was elected, he set out enriching himself at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world.

'His greed increased exponentially during the course of his governorship as did his arrogance.'

It was heard that he tried to pay a $15m bribe to a government official to make the corruption investigation 'go away'.

Even after he began to be investigated in 2005, Ibori involved himself in another 'massive fraud' and tried to bribe Nigerian officials, interfere with the trial and impugn the integrity of the officers.


Upmarket address: Another of the Nigerian's London properties lies on the capital's famous Abbey Road



Fraud: Another central London flat owned by Ibori's mistress (left) and a property he bought in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000 in 2005 (right)


Lap of luxury: Ibori's mansion in the Nigerian capital of Abuja

He was helped by family members, including his wife, sister Christine Ibori-Ibie, his mistress Udoamaka Oniugbo, and a series of corrupt professionals - a London-based lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, who acted as his banker and set up a myriad of off-shore companies, a fiduciary agent, Daniel Benedict McCann, a corporate financier, Lambertus De Boer - who have all been jailed for a total of 30 years.

His fraud unravelled when the Met raided the office of 'trusted servant' Gohil, 47, who has since been jailed for 10 years, and found hard drives containing detailed records hidden in the wall behind a fire place.

A series of trials have taken place leading to six convictions and sentences totalling 30 years but Ibori has made a number of attempts to disrupt the course of justice, Ms Wass said.

When he was arrested in Nigeria in 2007, the High Court froze assets worth £35million despite him only earning around £4,000 a year. A court later dismissed the charges and he fled to Dubai where he was arrested by the Met.

He was trying to purchase a $20million jet when he was arrested.

Ibori, wearing a dark suit and glasses, is represented by two QCs during his sentencing hearing which is expected to last two days.

The case continues.

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Nigerian state leaders keep on failing. Country will be ground down to dust by the likes of these.

Lol at that 'mugshot' though.

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its funny how they make this out to be some anti corruption case on Nigeria's behalf though.

He only got arrested cos he was made phoney offshore accounts and was trying to evade UK tax laws as well

had he paid his tax on stolen billions, the country wouldn't give a hoot

like the many other oligarchs from around the world who've looted their countries and reside or have residences in the UK

who did he think he is? the stolen funds probably wont be touching Nigeria though either

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Guest petercrotch

I would say he's only take back what has been stolen from us but the fact is it probably wouldn't have gone to the people who needed it in naija anyway .

He should have done what mr patel does and put the money "back home"

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Guest petercrotch

^^^what are you on about did you even read the article

Yeah i mean he should have JUST splashed back home and not here .

There's no court of law getting involved back home believe me

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I would say he's only take back what has been stolen from us but the fact is it probably wouldn't have gone to the people who needed it in naija anyway .

He should have done what mr patel does and put the money "back home"

your actually thick init.

he was stealing public money IN nigeria from the Nigerian people and laundering/spending it abroad

stop talking about what mr *insert stereotypically named representative of an entire ethnic group* does, because you dont have a clue.

do you know how money laundering works? it has to disappear from its country of origin, usually by being deposited in bank accounts in places like the cayman islands and then reappear usually by being filtered through phoney companies. He was over here spending the money because anti corruption agencies were after him in nigeria. He only got caught because the solicitor who was helping him (and presumably others) launder the money was raided.


guys who steal this amount of public money from their own people should be tried for treason imo.

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had he paid his taxes like the russians and other oligarchs who've looted their countries and reside comfortably in the UK

he wouldnt have been touched by justice. you cant bite both hands that feed you, even if you get away with one.

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