The alleged conspiracy against former Delta State governor Chief James Ibori, which led to his indictment and incarceration in a London prison, has continued to unravel as a former solicitor Bhadresh Gohil, who was linked to the high-profile prosecution of the former governor, has received £20,000 from the UK Crown Prosecution Service, after claims he was wrongly deprived of his liberty.
The extraordinary payment is just the latest twist in a legal case that has led to investigations into allegations of police corruption and a cover-up of key evidence which would have arguably resulted in a different judgment in the ruling to jail Chief Ibori in London.
Convicted of money laundering, Mr. Gohil was expecting to be released from prison on bail in November, 2015 having served half his sentence for fraud and money laundering, but the prosecution barrister, Sasha Wass QC had applied for the bail ruling to be revoked, less than a week before the release date.
This has prompted Mr. Gohil’s defence team to argue in a bail hearing that the prosecution had “manipulated dishonestly and in bad faith” the process by repeatedly telling the court that unconditional bail was unopposed, in response to the submission by Sasha Wass at same hearing, who had told the judge that she had made it plain that the Crown “would be seeking to review bail when the halfway point of Mr. Gohil’s sentence arose”.
“The defence were [put] on notice that the question of bail would be revisited,” the CPS prosecutor told the court.
Both Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service deny any wrongdoing, but the Crown Prosecution Service has now agreed to pay Mr. Gohil £20,000 “in full and final settlement” of claims that he was unlawfully detained for 33 days between 20 November and 22 December 2015. Bail was finally granted just before Christmas.
However, the CPS states that it “makes no admission of liability or of any wrongdoing” by its staff or counsel instructed by the service.
A payment of £20,000 in a case where an individual is deprived of his liberty for 33 days as a result of claims of misconduct by the Crown is significantly higher than might be expected for “basic damages”.
Mr. Gohil was jailed for 10 years in 2010 for helping Nigerian politician James Ibori launder millions in money that had been corruptly obtained.
Ibori was also jailed for 13 years in 2012 having pleaded guilty to laundering millions in the UK through the purchase of property and expensive cars.
While in prison, Mr. Gohil anonymously sent documents to the authorities which purported to show police officers investigating James Ibori had accepted bribes from private detectives hired by the man they were pursuing.
Following a £1m investigation by Scotland Yard’s Department of Professional Standards, Mr. Gohil was accused of forging the documents and subsequently charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Prosecutors alleged that he had faked the documents to try to get his conviction overturned on appeal.
The CPS “makes no admission of liability or wrongdoing” by its staff or counsel instructed by the service
However, the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned a planned trial in January this year amid defence claims that crucial evidence of alleged police corruption had been covered up.
In May this year, the CPS acknowledged that it had intelligence that “supports the assertion” that a Metropolitan Police officer was paid for information.
Det. Sgt John McDonald, who had headed the investigation into James Ibori, was then removed from the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit, where he had been on secondment.
A review of Det Sgt McDonald’s status was initiated and the Metropolitan Police has confirmed that the review has been completed and the officer has now been deployed to an operational post in its specialist crime and operations unit.
Det. Sgt McDonald has always denied any wrongdoing.
The National Crime Agency is currently conducting a review into alleged evidence of police corruption, as well as claims that the CPS withheld key evidence from defence lawyers and whether the convictions of James Ibori and others including Bhadresh Gohil are safe.
This latest decision to award Mr. Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s former lawyer, the sum of £20,000 by UK Govt for unlawful imprisonment, is indeed for the for Ibori and clearly indicates that there is indeed more to process of trial and subsequent decision to incarcerate the former Delta state governor, than meets the eye.
Recall that the Ibori trial was to take a new twist recently when the Southwark Crown Court, London, earlier this year, ruled to suspend the start of the confiscation hearing against him, until the conclusion of the investigation of corruption, and misleading the court, charges against the British Police and the Prosecution in jailing the former Delta State governor.
Chief James Onanaefe Ibori’s defence lawyers had shocked the Southwark Court, London, when they adduced evidence before Judge Tomlinson of a conspiracy between Nigeria and Britain to railroad Ibori and his associates to jail and the court proceedings had been delayed for hours because the London Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, suddenly turned lukewarm and refused to appear in court for the day’s hearing.
A statement issued by Chief Ibori’s spokesperson, Mr. Tony Eluemunor had said that a thoroughly disappointed Judge Tomlinson had been left with no option when the prosecution lawyers had dilly-dallied over appearing in court to address a case of professional misconduct, dishonesty, perverting the course of justice and criminal non-disclosures, lying to the trial court and Court of Appeal, which the crown court had described as ‘serious and urgent’.
The worst charge so far against the British prosecution had been made, according to Eluemunor, when the court resumed by 2p.m., and Mr. Kamish, counsel to Ibori’s former lawyer, Badresh Gohil, had dropped the bombshell when he revealed a sinister conspiracy between Nigeria and Britain to railroad Ibori and associates to jail.
He had then backed this up by pointing at a document signed by British and Nigerian governments agreeing that the Department for International Development will be paid 25 million Pounds Sterling from money that will be confiscated from Ibori, before any penny is ever remitted to Nigeria.
The two prosecutors, Sasha Wass and Esther Schutzer-Weissmann and in fact, all the prosecution lawyers plus the entire police officers that have represented the British Police, were not only at the end of finger-pointing, but had all been dismissed from the Ibori case and all other cases stemming from it, following allegations of corruption against them, including lies and deliberate misleading of the court and their activities are now being challenged in court for grounds of upturning all the convictions – Ibori’s and his associates’.
The court had also held that issues raised, on behalf of Mr. Ibori was that the predecessor of the new prosecution lawyer, Mr Kinnear, had manipulated proceedings, are no longer a discreet matter, since allegations that previous counsel either misled or manipulated the court to abort the proceeding had been widely published and reported in major media outfits and cannot be allowed to go away.
The Court had then ordered a “Review which will be internal to the London Metropolitan Police, but the mass media whose exactions over the years have been drumming that the review be made, will still be there to watch and ensure that nothing inappropriate is swept under the carpet”.
With these recent developments therefore, Ibori now stands a good chance of having his guilty plea and conviction revisited and probably quashed if the Review into Disclosure and Police Corruption establishes that indeed there has been failings leading to corruption on the part of the British police during investigation and the Prosecution deliberately withheld the materials used against Ibori, just to manipulate the court in securing Ibori’s conviction.
Beyond all else, the conclusion of the Review will pave the way for Ibori’s defence team to appeal against his conviction and seek to quash it. No matter how embarrassing this may be to Britain and her anti-corruption stance, the mass media’s crusade that the rule of law has to be respected even when a government is fighting corruption and that any society that condones police corruption is already mired in corruption, is bearing fruit. Even the British Parliament is watching the case as the members of its hallowed chambers have also discussed it.
The case is likely to resume in October after the outcome of the Review and Ibori’s defence team will decide on how to proceed with the outcome.