Tuesday, 8 October 2013

London Court Ends Trial In Drama Over Lack Of Evidence

The London Metropolitan Police admitted in court on the last day of the assets confiscation trial on Monday that they lacked enough evidence to support their allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering against former Delta State Governor, James Onanefe Ibori. This is coming just as Delta State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah (SAN), denied allegations by the Metropolitan Police that the state government refused to release vital documents to it while investigating the corruption case against the former Governor. Continue to read the rest of the "quite lengthy" story ...
In a most surprising move that would be discussed for years in legal circles, the trial Judge, Anthony Pitts, granted the Crown Prosecution’s request to move the goal post when a match had entered injury time. As a result, the judge adjourned for a total retrial – in order for the prosecution to gather enough evidence against Ibori – after both the prosecution and defence have made their final submissions in the hearing which was supposed to end today. 

And reacting to Pitts’ judgment in favour of the prosecution asking for a halt of the court proceedings after all parties had made their submissions, Ibori said: “After eight years of criminal investigations, five adjournments and over 50 trips to Nigeria, the prosecution failed to provide any tangible evidence to support their claim that I defrauded Delta Sta “Their case collapsed to such an extent that on the very last day of a three-week hearing, they were humbled into making an application to the judge for permission to start again which the judge unceremoniously granted.” 

Pitts, acceding to the request of the prosecution and adjourning for the case to go to retrial, said: “I feel that this case inevitably requires decision that is probably based on proper evidence. This matter must proceed in a way to make proper decision… it seems to me to hear some more evidence.” Giving the crown prosecution the green light to go for more evidence to support their confiscation claim, the judge said: “I need to be in a much better position more than I am now to make a better decision. I am going to adjourn these proceedings till early next year.” 

As the confiscation hearing opened early on Monday, Ibori’s lead counsel Ivan Krolic, as part of his skeletal argument against the background of Ibori’s guilty plea during the trial, said “the making of confiscation determinations is governed by different procedural requirement from trial procedures and different standard of proof is to be applied.” He added: “When it comes to trial and sentencing, the court is not concerned with numbers.” Pitts then cut in: “Number is also considered.”

Explaining to the judge, Krolic said “in confiscation, difference in number is important because the issues in confiscation are quantitative.” Pitts, sensing that Krolic was discrediting the prosecution’s evidence against Ibori, and knowing that it lacks sufficient evidence to support the claims, cut in again: “I fully agree that we are not bound by the pleas of guilt here… but we are in a different situation.” 

Drawing from Krolic’s arguments that Ibori’s guilty plea has to be supported with quantitative evidence as to his benefits in the prosecution’s allegation as set out in Section 73 as the basis for consideration in the assets confiscation hearing, the judge continued: “I am being asked by you to ignore his guilty pleas and look again if he is actually guilty; I know you are not saying that, but it really seems so close.”

Undaunted, Krolic went on to cite many authorities to support his case that a guilty plea in confiscation does not mean that the defendant has the full benefits of the guilt. He said, “The burden lies on the prosecution to prove to what extent the defendant has benefitted from the offence and in this case, we are relying on the prosecution’s own evidence that is set out in Section 73 as provided in their often trumpeted 63,000 pages of evidence before this court from the start of this proceedings.” 

Relying on the authority of the case of Mcintosh and Rezvi 2010, Krolic said, “The court held in Paragraph 22 that a plea of guilty did not amount to an admission from which a conclusive inferences can be drawn pursuant to Section 10CJA 1967. “Where the defendant has pleaded guilty, it is important for the prosecution to prove their case; I have shown you that what the prosecution has put forward in their 63,000 pages trial bundle is not supported by any iota of evidence.” 

Lead Crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass, who appeared in court after lunch break and having been briefed by her junior counsel, Esther Schutzer-weissmann, that the judge was intending to adjourn the case for more evidence to help him reach a conclusion, said “your honour we will ask that these proceedings are brought to a halt and list it for another hearing so that we may call more witnesses.”

Ibori’s counsel, not satisfied with the prosecution’s request for a halt of the court proceedings and allowance for a retrial, urged the judge to hear the case to the end and give judgement based on the submissions made by both the prosecution and the defence. He said: “We do not say that the conviction should go, we do not attack the conviction, we are only concerned by what has been obtained by Mr. Ibori in connection to the charge.” 

Trying to persuade the judge not to adjourn for retrial as being pushed for by the prosecution having found out that they do not have the evidence to back up their confiscation claim, Krolick said: “We are not even suggesting that witnesses are required… we are only saying that Ibori did not obtain what he has been accused of obtaining and that it is now crystal clear that the prosecution does not have evidence to link funds from Delta State to him and that the court should make its decision on that basis.”

But the counsel’s appeal could not persuade Pitts against granting the prosecution’s request for adjournment and retrial in order to call more evidences against Ibori. The court then adjourned till December 19 for preliminary direction of the confiscation proceeding – preparatory for a totally fresh trial. Speaking to newsmen on Monday, the Delta State Attorney General, Ajuyah, said he was shocked that the London Metropolitan police could make allegations against the Delta State Government when in fact they (police) never made any request for any document relating to Ibori’s trial.

“The truth is that there was never a time the Metropolitian Police requested for information or document from Delta. “No request was made either formally or informally and I do not think the person who made that assertion actually meant Delta State. If he did, then, it is not a sincere or truthful statement.“I believe a request of that nature should be in writing; was any evidence of the request produced? None was produced. Believe it, none was made and I say so with all sense of responsibility,” Ajuyah said.

However, the Attorney General stated that the EFCC had requested to conduct an audit into the Delta State accounts sometime in 2007 over which judicial intervention was sought.
“In fact, the only authority that ever contacted us on the Ibori case was the EFCC and initially they requested for documents from 1999 to 2007 for audit. “It was a general request and as a responsible government, it approached the court for a determination of the right of the state and an important issue was whether EFCC has the right to audit a state under the Constitution? 
“There are other issues, which are ‘sub judice’, but the court granted an order ex parte to restrain the EFCC until determination of motion on notice.

“That order lasted for very short period and thereafter, EFCC made specific requests and the state government gave full and maximum co operation. “EFCC has boxes and boxes of documents from the state and I am aware that the documents were in possession of the Met Police and Crown prosecution. “If the state did not cooperate with EFCC, how come the Crown had materials from the Delta State?” he asked rhetorically. Ajuyah said the clarification became necessary in the face of spurious allegations the Metropolitan Police made against the Delta State Government over Ibori’s case in London.

Source: Daily Independent

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