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Corrupt Nigerian politician siphoned millions to buy homes in Hampstead and Regent’s Park

PUBLISHED: 14:44 24 April 2012

James Ibori

James Ibori

Archant

A corrupt Nigerian politician who led a lavish lifestyle and bought luxury homes across north London, was on the cusp of buying a £12.6million private jet when he was snared for a fraud which saw him pocket £50million.

James Ibori abused his position as governor of Nigeria’s richest oil region, to amass an impressive property portfolio – including a £2.2million house in Westover Hill, Hampstead – buy a fleet of luxury cars, and pay for his daughters to attend a top private school.

His governor’s annual salary was just £4,000, but he siphoned off public money through a network of bankers, solicitors, family and friends, using offshore accounts.

Ibori, 49, used the money to buy a flat in Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, a £390,000 flat in Westbourne Green and a £3million mansion in South Africa, Southwark Crown Court heard on Monday, April 16.

Before joining Nigeria’s political elite as Delta State governor, Ibori, a former cashier at a DIY store in Neasden, was convicted of theft from his employers at Wickes DIY – something that would have barred him from taking public office.

Ibori’s sentencing had to be delayed on April 16 as police – armed with tasers – were called to restrain a crowd of his supporters as they burst through the courtroom doors, knocking prosecutor Sam Wass QC to the ground.

After dusting herself down, Ms Wass told the court that Ibori, who hid his past crimes from Nigerian authorities by falsifying his birth date on a new passport, forced people to address him as “your excellency” as he “deliberately and systematically” defrauded the region between 1999 and 2007.

She said: “From starting out as a petty thief with his hands in the till at Wickes, who could not afford his mortgage repayments, he became a property tycoon who led the lifestyle of royalty.”

Ibori, who called on former England striker John Fashanu as a character witness, admitted 10 counts relating to conspiracy to launder funds from the Delta State, money laundering and one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception and fraud.

At Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, April 17, he was jailed for 13 years.

In 2001, the Nigerian governor blew millions on his Hampstead mansion, concealing his ownership through a company incorporated in Gibraltar.

He had no need for a mortgage despite his modest state salary.

Most of the funds predominantly came from MER Engineering – a company fronted by an associate – which owned extremely valuable contracts with huge oil firms.

Ibori was trying to buy a Bombardier private jet using MER funds directed through bank accounts in London and Switzerland when UK authorities froze his assets in 2007.

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