- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Thursday, 04 November 2010 08:32
- Written by Admin
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Yesterday, the defense attorneys for former Delta State First Lady Theresa Nkoyo Ibori put her on the stand and asked questions that portrayed her as a mini-Mother Theresa, a woman cheated on, ignored and finally abandoned by her crooked husband, former Governor James Onanefe Ibori.
On her second day in the witness box, prosecution attorneys at the Southwark Crown Court had their opportunity to cross-examine Mrs. Ibori. At the end of their grueling questioning, they revealed Mrs. Ibori to be a criminally minded accomplice in an intricate web that involved extensive money laundering, a lifestyle of opulent luxury and comfort, and a corrupt rags-to-riches scheme.
Sasha Walsh, QC, led the team of prosecutors from the Crown Prosecution Service to cross-examine Theresa Nkoyo Ibori.
In what an attorney in court described as “a methodical and clinical job,” the prosecutors started grilling Mrs. Ibori by taking up her statement that she was from a very "humble background," born in Stoke Newington in London. She had earlier claimed that her family had to struggle for a living and that she had to take up a series of jobs in order to survive. She then spoke about how her study of management gave her a good understanding of accounting and figures.
Under questioning, she testified that when she met Ibori in London, "he was poor and had no money to his name," stating that they both got jobs at Wicks, a department store in London.
Even though the prosecutors were not allowed to introduce Theresa Nkoyo’s prior joint conviction with James Ibori for stealing building materials at Wicks, they successfully goaded Theresa to admit that the Ibori convicted was the same man she married.
“This was a major coup for the prosecution,” said a lawyer who observed today’s proceedings, stating that Mr. Ibori had denied that he was ever convicted in the UK for theft prior to becoming Delta governor.
Mrs. Ibori disclosed that her husband had always expressed an intention to go into politics in Nigeria. Once he became governor, the struggling girl from Stoke Newington suddenly found herself in the midst of legendary luxury. She told the Southwark Court judge and jury that she had more than 17 personal aides, including numerous security guards, when her husband ran one of Nigeria's richest states.
She also admitted in court that she and her husband owned a 3- bedroom flat in London that was recovered by credit agencies. But once James Ibori became governor, the couple’s fortunes changed and the Iboris, in the words of the prosecutor, became “multi-millionaires,” owning a home currently worth £5 million in the Dorset countryside of London. In addition, the former governor and his wife acquired several homes in the UK, including an electronically gated home in Westover Hill, North London.
Prosecutors also revealed that, despite Mrs. Ibori’s efforts to feign ignorance of Ibori's criminal activities and financial shenanigans, she became a beneficiary of a £3 million trust fund her husband set up for her. Prosecutors also compelled her to admit to ownership of a Mercedes Benz as well as other expensive cars including Chrysler Voyager (Peoples Carrier 2009 model), a customized Maybach car, Jaguar (2000). In addition, all her three children are in private schools and enjoy chauffer driven cars.
In a statement that made a Nigerian observer gasp in disgust, Mrs. Ibori claimed that they bought the £5 million Dorset home because one of their daughters could not travel for more than three hours at a time. To solve the problem, the Iboris decided it was proper to buy a house close to her super-expensive elite school.
Where Theresa had presented herself yesterday as a woman mistreated by her husband, the Crown prosecutors painted a different picture of her for the jury. They revealed Ibori’s plan to buy a house for one of his under-aged daughters and disclosed that he bought another property in highbrow 23 Abbey Road North London as a guesthouse to “host friends.” When prosecutors disclosed that Ibori purchased properties in Texas and South Africa, Mrs. Ibori claimed that she was not aware that her husband owned those properties. She said Ibori had always maintained that the house in South Africa belonged to a friend.
Mrs. Ibori admitted that, whilst she was First Lady of Delta State, she had recruited a “network of spies” to spy on her husband because of his reputation for extramarital affairs. She told the court that Mr. Ibori engaged in “a reckless acquisition of concubines.”
Her most revealing testimony was on the relationship between Nigeria's former dictator, General Sani Abacha, and her husband, who is in Dubai awaiting extradition to the UK to face money-laundering charges.
She told the court that her husband’s meeting with Abacha changed his life and fortune. Prosecutors established in court that Ibori was arrested with $1 million in the USA, as Saharareporters earlier reported. Unable to explain the source of the money, Ibori struck a bargain with US authorities in which he forfeited $400,000, returning to Nigeria with $600,000. In court today, Mrs. Ibori admitted that her husband discussed the details of the US experience with her.
The prosecutors seized on that admission to make their case that she testified dishonestly when she told the court she was unaware of her husband’s shady deals.
Theresa Ibori told the court that Mr. Ibori described himself as a political consultant for the Abacha regime, but prosecutors suggested that he was doing Abacha’s dirty work. Mrs. Ibori described Abacha as one of Mr. Ibori’s “godfathers amongst many,” but clarified that it was not the “mafia” type of godfather."
Numerous security sources had told Saharareporters that Mr. Ibori and Abacha's chief security officer, Al Mustapha, collaborated on assassinations of Abacha’s political opponents. Mr. Ibori has been accused of using his familiarity with Mr. Alfred Rewane to help Abacha’s killer squads to assassinate the Itsekiri businessman for bankrolling the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
Prosecutors also undermined Mrs. Ibori’s claim that her husband forged her signature on documents, especially those relating to the purchase of properties. Prosecutors took her to task by showing that she knew what she was doing as she lived in some of the properties where she claimed her signatures were forged.
Prosecutors also detailed Mrs. Ibori’s connivance with her husband who, in preparation for a political career in Nigeria, altered his date of birth in order to conceal his conviction for theft in London. They provided details of how Mr. Ibori changed his date of birth from the original 4/08/1962 to a date in 1958, all as part of a well-designed deceptive scheme to cover his conviction in the UK. Theresa Ibori claimed she was ignorant that his conviction in a UK criminal proceeding did matter in Nigeria. She told the court she thought “his conviction could not be used against him.”
Prosecutors showed her a Nigerian newspaper report in 2003 in which Mr. Ibori “celebrated” his 45th instead of 41st birthday. They asked why Theresa celebrated her husband’s 45th birthday in 2003 when she knew he was really 41 years old. The prosecutor asked, “Was it because you were more interested in him becoming governor of Delta State and he needed to be 4 years older?”
Mrs. Ibori replied that African culture did not allow her to challenge her husband. But the prosecutors countered by bringing out another newspaper in which she was reported to have become angry at Mr. Ibori at a public function and had wanted to "slap him." She admitted to being angry about his cheating ways and that she confronted him about it in public. Prosecutors used her admission of public display of anger to underscore the point that she was independent enough to confront Ibori.
They further told the jury that Mrs. Ibori was more concerned about the spoils of office and thus returned to the "office of First Lady of Delta State in 2003 after she had walked out of her marriage."
A legal analyst in court told Saharareporters that the prosecution’s line of questioning was aimed at portraying Mrs. Ibori as a liar and a gold digger who partnered with a criminally minded character but decided to feign ignorance and disown him once the law caught up with the duo. The Crown’s cross-examination continues today.