The unending saga over the attempt to prosecute the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, appears headed for uncharted territory. In what may result in a huge scandal, sources in the Attorney General’s Office in Abuja, claims that the British government through one of its agencies, attempted to bribe the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa.
The source told The Times of Nigeria that a senior official of Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) tried to “induce or engage in inappropriate conduct” to influence the investigation of the former governor of Delta State.
An official in the AG’s who wish to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the case told The Times of Nigeria that Eamon Cassidy, director of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) during a visit to the Attorney General’s office last month in company of some British “police officers or Crown Prosecutors” from London attempted to induce the Michael Aondoakaa by offering the AG one million pounds for “assistance.”
Eamon and the other officials from the UK were in Nigeria to discuss the outstanding case involving the former governor in a London Court. However, during the meeting at the AG’s office in Abuja, the AG and other Justice Ministry aides in attendance were said to have been shocked when the DFID boss told the Aondoakaa that his agency and the British Government would like to offer the AG’s office money for “judicial reforms.”
“It was shocking because it is strange for such an offer to be made right immediately after discussing Ibori’s case and seeking cooperation from the Minister. It looked as if they were offering the money in return for something. The Minister was shocked to say the least.” A Justice Ministry official privy to the meeting said.
A London court on August 2, 2007 granted an application restraining Ibori, Erin Aviation and others from interacting with their assets in the United Kingdom pending the determination of the case. The judge later lifted.
The judge, Goymer had complained of the inability of the police to present evidence to support its case against “I have allowed the Crown two months to put new material before the Court to support the allegations against Chief Ibori. If anything, on the material before me today there is less cause for me to believe that Chief Ibori has benefited from criminal conduct in Nigeria.”
However, the CPS appealed against the judgment, leading to the granting of an ex-parte motion for the status quo before the October 1 ruling of the Crown Court to remain.
The Criminal Court of Appeal in London extended the order freezing the, till November 29, 2007, when the Crown Prosecution and lawyers to the ex-governor are expected to appear in court.
The CPS is expected to present any new evidence it has to support the continued freezing of Ibori’s account. The Judges are likely to throw out the case and once again unfreeze Ibori’s assets unless the CPS shows evidence to prove that Ibori’s properties were illegally acquired.
Source close to the Ibori who declined to have their names mentioned believe that it is “the desperation to get the evidence from Nigeria that may have led the DFID boss into desperate actions.”
“How can you be offering a so called legal assistance at the same meeting where Ibori’s case was being discussed especially when you are a party to the case?” He queried.
Ibori declined to comment on the case when Times of Nigeria reached him. Several call to DFID’s Abuja office for comment went un-answered.