LONDON Dec 22 (Reuters) – James Ibori, who as governor of oil-producing Delta State became one of Nigeria’s richest and most powerful men, has been released from a British jail after serving a sentence for graft and now faces a fight over his assets before he can go home.
Arrested in 2010, Ibori served half his 13-year sentence – as is normal under British procedures – after pleading guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.
According to a person familiar with the situation, Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd had sought to keep him in prison, or electronically tagged and under curfew, until he returned 18 million pounds ($22 million) of “proceeds of crime”.
A judge rejected that proposal, however, and Ibori was formally released from prison this week. He has since been detained under immigration powers and is on bail ahead of a hearing that will determine what happens to his assets.
He is likely to be deported from Britain once an agreement has been reached over his finances.
While in office, Ibori acquired luxury properties in Britain, the United States, South Africa and Nigeria. He is the most senior Nigerian politician to have been held to account for the corruption that has blighted Africa’s most populous nation.
His jailing in Britain, where he had laundered millions of pounds and sent his children to an expensive private school, was hailed as a high point in the international fight against graft and an important signal to other corrupt politicians.
Ibori had been considering whether to appeal against his conviction on the grounds that British police and lawyers in his case were themselves corrupt. (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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