April 24 2014 Latest news:
by Ben Bloom , Reporter
Thursday, March 15, 2012
A former Goldman Sachs banker from St John’s Wood helped a corrupt Nigerian politician embezzle millions of pounds stolen from government accounts, a court heard this week.
Ellias Preko, 52, of St John’s Wood Road, helped James Ibori, the former governor of the African nation’s Delta State, set up a web of offshore trusts and companies to launder the cash, it is claimed.
Prosecutors said Harvard graduate Preko abused his “gold-plated credentials” to conceal Ibori’s “dirty money”.
Ibori, 53, of Westover Hill, Hampstead, last month pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and money laundering after police claimed he stole £160million during his eight-year term in office.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court this week was told Preko used his connections and reputation to “unlock financial doors” and “sidestep regulations” to help siphon off £4m of Ibori’s fortune.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass said: “The prosecution case is that Mr Preko helped a crooked politician who defrauded his government treasuries and stole from some of the poorest people in the world.
“Mr Preko helped this corrupt politician secrete the proceeds of the political corruption and theft in offshore accounts and trust funds.
“Without the skills and expertise of people such as Mr Preko, money laundering on such a scale would not be possible.”
The court heard Preko, who was Goldman Sachs’ executive director for private clients in Sub-Saharan Africa, first met Ibori in 1997.
It is alleged he created a series of Guernsey-based trusts and shell companies for Ibori before leaving Goldman Sachs in 2001.
The court heard he walked away with many of the bank’s West African clients, who the prosecutor described as “clients that Goldman Sachs were not prepared to touch”.
Ms Wass told the court that Ibori siphoned millions out of the Delta State by rigging the tendering process for state contracts and awarding contracts to his mistress.
He amassed a wealth of “enormous proportions” with which he bought properties in the UK, South Africa and the US.
He was negotiating to buy a £12.5million private jet when Scotland Yard detectives caught him.
Ibori will be sentenced on April 16.
Preko denies three counts of money laundering and two counts of forgery.
The trial continues.