The London Southwark Crown Court has been told that the abrupt manner the asset confiscation hearing of the former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, ended after both the prosecution and defence had closed their cases and filed their final briefs, and the order for retrial would have cost implications for the court and the British taxpayer.
Ibori’s lead counsel, Mr. Ivan Krolick, made this clear to the court for granting the crown prosecution’s request to halt the assets confiscation proceedings after three weeks of exhaustive legal arguments.
He clearly told Judge Anthony Pitts that “there will be cost implications.”
Preparations for the abruptly ended proceedings started in January this year leading to the last three weeks last month and a review of 63,000 pages of prosecution papers by the defence team.
Even the arguments over-shot the assigned time frame by a week. Still, pushing aside all the efforts of the defence team to present the position of the defendant, Ibori, against the confiscation request order being made by the prosecution should indeed have cost implications which 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, rather than give judgment or give a date for judgment after three weeks of legal battle during which final submissions were made, 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 quote him directly, Pitts said while giving ordering for a retrial: “this matter must proceed in a way that I can make proper decision.”
One question that has agitated Ibori’s camp and lawyers interested in the case since then is what will “proper decision” mean in this case? This is because the British Crown prosecution claimed they presented in their trial bundle 63, 000 pages of statements, flew in Nigeria’s former EFCC chairman, Mr. 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 Ibori’s alleged criminality against Delta State for over eight 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 – all for lack of evidence and witnesses that would enable the judge arrive at a “proper decision.”
Ibori’s defence counsel, Krolic and Kennedy Tolbot had made robust arguments against the crown prosecution confiscation request order of £90,000,000, using an independent UK forensic accountant expert and relying on the prosecution’s own trial documents which contained all of 63,000 statements.
The defence team showed the court that none of the 63,000 documents in the trial bundle has evidence that linked Delta State funds to any of Ibori’s account in any way. During cross examination, Met Police lead financial investigator, Detective Constable Peter Clark agreed that there was no direct payments from Delta State to any of the alleged foreign accounts of the former governor.
Krolic had asked: “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.”
Clark replied: “Not directly from Delta State”
As an analyst put it, “The inability of the crown prosecution to establish a proof against Ibori should not be the fault of 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 and not the defence.
Krolick asking that the trial should continue to its logical conclusion and a ruling given, said the prosecution had thrown in all in their armoury: “in the present case, the evidential matters relied on by the defence are all contained in the prosecution’s evidence served before the trial and 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 just that to 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 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 December 19 for possible determination of when the full hearing will start in 2014.
Posted by SirVic for wetopup(News Laboratry)