DOJ restrains U.S. assets of former Nigerian governor

Michael P. Tremoglie Jul. 24, 2012, 1:12pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The Department of Justice announced Monday that it secured a restraining order against more than $3 million in corruption proceeds and assets owned by James Onanefe Ibori, Nigeria's former Delta State governor.

The action was taken after an application to register and enforce two orders from United Kingdom courts was received.

The application, which was filed in the federal court in the District of Columbia, seeks to restrain a mansion in Houston and two Merrill Lynch brokerage accounts. DOJ is working with the United Kingdom's Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service to forfeit these corruption proceeds.

According to the application, Ibori served as the governor of Nigeria's oil-rich Delta State from 1999- 2007 and misappropriated millions of dollars in Delta State funds. He laundered those proceeds through a myriad of shell companies, intermediaries and nominees in several jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom.

He and his associates accumulated millions of dollars in assets in the United Kingdom and the United States, despite Nigerian law prohibiting state governors from maintaining foreign bank accounts and serving as directors of private companies.

Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Southwark Crown Court. He had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

"Instead of working to benefit the people of the Nigerian Delta, Governor Ibori pilfered state funds and accumulated immense wealth in the process," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said.

"He conspired with (lawyer Bhadresh) Gohil to funnel millions of dollars in corruption proceeds out of Nigeria and into bank accounts and assets maintained in the names of shell companies and nominees. Through the Criminal Division's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, our message is clear: the United States will not be used as a safe haven for the ill-gotten gains of corrupt foreign officials."

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