UK agrees to return N2.2 billion Ibori loot to Nigeria

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The United Kingdom has agreed to send £4.2 million (N2.2 billion) of stolen funds recovered by its agencies back to Nigeria.

The funds which was looted by former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, will be spent on key infrastructure and building works in Nigeria.

“This is the first time that money recovered from criminals will be returned to Nigeria since an agreement was signed in 2016 to recover and return the proceeds of bribery or corruption in a responsible and transparent way,”the UK said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The money – stolen by the former Governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, James Ibori, and his associates – was retrieved through operations led by UK law enforcement agencies, who worked to identify assets bought in the UK with illicit funds and recover them. In February 2012, Mr Ibori pleaded guilty in a UK court to money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, and forgery, and was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison”.

UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge said, “When money is stolen from public funds it hits the poorest communities the hardest and means money can’t be spent where it’s most needed.

“The UK’s work on this case to recover millions of pounds will support vital infrastructure and building works. The UK and Nigeria will continue to work together to tackle crime and corruption across our nations.

“The Nigerian government has pledged to use the returned funds for projects that will benefit and improve the country. This includes boosting support to substantial building work for the Lagos to Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja to Kano road and the second Niger Bridge”.

The country’s Home Office Minister, Baroness Williams added,  “This is a significant moment in our fight against illicit finance wherever it is found.

“Recovering the proceeds of crime is a critical part of our fight against serious crime and this sends a clear message to criminals that we will relentlessly pursue them, their assets and their money”.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the returned loots be deployed to completion of the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos to Ibadan express way and the Abuja to Kano express way projects.

Ibori was governor of the oil-rich Delta State between 1999 and 2007. He was jailed in the UK for fraud in 2012 and had since served his time and returned to Nigeria.

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