The long and larcenous journey of James Ibori, the former governor of Delta state in Nigeria, will be taking an extended detour through prison.
Two years after Ibori’s arrest on a British warrant in Dubai, a British judge sentenced Ibori to 13 years in prison on Tuesday for money laundering. The judge, Anthony Pitts, dismissed the $79 million that Ibori had confessed to stealing in his guilty plea as “ludicrously low.” Scotland Yard estimates that Ibori had swindled the Nigerian people of some $250 million.
Officially, Ibori earned a salary of $5,300 a year as governor of Delta state, The Guardian reports. But he managed to surround himself with luxury. He built up a portfolio of exclusive properties in London, South Africa and Texas, and rang up credit card bills totaling $200,000 a month. He carried an American Express Centurion card, available only to the super-rich, on which he had charged more than $1.2 million in three years.
In 2005, Ibori had ordered his London attorney to purchase $20 million private jet for him.
Non-profit organizations are using the occasion of Ibori’s sentencing to urge British and American authorities to exercise tougher oversight of banks in their countries. “We now need an investigation into how Ibori was able to move so much money through these British banks for so long, and whether or not sufficient checks were carried out,” said Robert Palmer of the non-profit Global Witness.
With the public clamoring for a crackdown on corruption, Greece appears set to make an example of its former defense minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos.
Tsochatzopoulos, 72, is at the center of Greece’s first high-profile prosecution on corruption-related charges in decades. He is accused of money laundering to cover-up millions of euros in bribes tied to Greece’s purchase of submarines from the German arms company Ferrostaal.
On Monday, Tsochatzopoulos testified before an Athens magistrate for eight hours, after which he was summarily dispatched to jail. His trial date has not been set. He faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted.
Once seen as a possible contender for the prime minster’s post, Tsochatzopoulos was expelled from the Socialist PASOK party last year over bribery allegations. In addition to the money laundering allegations, he faces charges of filing false income reports to tax authorities.
Authorities have impounded his house, a mansion in one of Athens’ most expensive neighborhoods, that he failed to include in declaring his assets to authorities.
The Greek public is becoming increasingly focused on corruption, surveys show, as it grapples with austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as part of the country’s bailout.
Yet more suspicion of corruption among the rich and famous in Hong Kong. Following on the heels of the arrests of billionaire Kwok brothers last month, Hong Kong’s fifth richest person, Joseph Lau, and Steven Lo, chairman of the South China Football Club and of BMA Investment, are being tied to a bribery investigation in nearby Macau.
The two were named in an ongoing trial of a former government official in Macau, Ao Man-long. Ao, Macau’s former secretary for transport and public works, is accused of pocketing some $2.6 in bribes from Lau and Lo, allegedly in exchange for land opposite Macau’s airport. The land is being developed for apartments, which are already being sold. The project will eventually count nine towers.
Ao is neck deep in corruption, serving 28.5 years after dozens of convictions on charges including bribery, money laundering and abuse of power. He still faces six more corruption charges and three allegations of money laundering.
Forbes reports that Lau is “a longtime fixture on the Hong Kong Rich List,” his wealth estimated at $6.5 billion.
Last month, Raymond and Thomas Kwok, the chairmen of Sun Hug Kai Properties in Hong Kong, were arrested in connection with a bribery investigation.