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Ex-Wickes Cashier Jailed Over £50m Fraud
A former Wickes cashier who later became one of Nigeria's most powerful politicians has been sentenced to 13 years in jail after admitting to a £50m fraud.
James Ibori pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court in February to a series of charges linked to the theft of money from Nigeria's Delta state and fraud involving state-owned shares in a mobile phone firm.
The £50m figure may prove to be "ludicrously low", said Judge Anthony Pitts as he sentenced Ibori for a series of offences including fraud and money-laundering.
"In the light of other matters, perhaps that is a ludicrously low figure and the figure may be in excess of £200m, it is difficult to tell," he told the court.
"The confiscation proceedings may shed some further light on the enormity of the sums involved."
Ibori was working as a cashier in a branch of the DIY chain in Ruislip, northwest London, before he moved to Nigeria and worked his way up through the political ranks to become a state governor in 1999.
As governor of the state, he was racking up credit card bills of $200,000 (£126,000) per month on a luxury lifestyle, including running a fleet of armoured Range Rovers.
He was trying to buy a plane for £12m at the time he was arrested.
Ibori admitted one count of conspiracy to launder money, five of money laundering and one of obtaining a property transfer by deception over the theft of more than £25m while he was governor of the region.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a $37m (£23.3m) share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company V Mobile.
But speaking outside the court, former footballer John Fashanu spoke up in Ibori's defence.
"I found James Ibori a very humble person, a very giving person. Somebody who has revolutionised sport in Delta state," said Fashanu.
Asked if Ibori should pay back the money, Fashanu added: "Anybody who does anything (wrong) should pay it back. Nobody's denying that."
Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court Ibori had accepted he was involved in "wide-scale theft, fraud and corruption when he was governor of Delta state".
He allegedly used a false date of birth when he ran for the governorship of the state to conceal previous convictions, as a criminal record would have excluded him from taking part in the election.
Ms Wass added: "Mr Ibori tricked his way into public office. He had tricked the Nigerian authorities and the Nigerian voters. He was thus never the legitimate governor of Delta state."
According to prosecutors he is 49, but according to the date of birth he used in Nigeria he would be 53.
Ibori was extradited from Dubai to the UK in April 2011 and Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said it was estimated that Ibori stole around $250m (£157m) from the Nigerian state.
He said: "The scale can only be described as huge. Vast sums of money which were used to fund his lavish lifestyle.
"The real harm in this case is the potential loss to people in some of the poorest regions in the world."
Attempts will now be made to confiscate as much of the money as possible, so that it can be returned to the state government, Mr Whatmore said.
Ibori's wife Theresa, sister Christine Ibori-Idie, mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo and London-based solicitor Bhadresh Gohil have all already been convicted for their part in the money-laundering.
A Department for International Development spokesman said: "No British aid was compromised, but his crimes have had a devastating effect on his fellow Nigerians as the money was meant to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people."