says proceeding must stop in the interest of Justice to Ibori.
Chief James Onanefe Ibori won a major victory yesterday when the Southwark Crown Court, London, ruled to suspend the start of the confiscation hearing against him, until the conclusion of the investigation of corruption, and misleading the court, charges against the British Police and the Prosecution in jailing the former Delta State Governor.
According to a statement signed by Ibori’s Media Assitant, Tony Eluemunor, Ibori’s lead counsel, Mr. Ivan Krolic, (Queen’s Councel, QC) had asked the court to halt proceedings because the review which will end early August this year, may also prove that the Prosecution, having known of the corrupt and shrap practices, refused to disclose such evidences, but relied upon it and thereby misled the court in securing Mr. Ibori’s conviction, thus desecrating the much-respected British legal system.
His Honour Judge Tomlinson, who stoutly resistance Ibori’s application leading to this passionate exchange with Ibori’s lawyer: Judge Tomlinson: What do I tell the listing officer for not continuing with this proceeding; I need to get a grip of this. Mr Ibori has been convicted nearly three years ago”.
Krolic cuts in: “Four years”.
JudgeTomlinson: “Mr Ibori has been convicted nearly 4 years, when does the confiscation hearing start”?
Krolic: “This proceeding will start when the Crown completes its review into police corruption. I ask rhetorically, could the court continue with this confiscation hearing when there is an application on abuse of court process”?
Mr Krolic, “We say the Crown Prosecution has manipulated this confiscation proceedings and Crown Prosecution Counsel made misleading statements and submissions. This hearing will not be fair unless the Review is completed and we know to what extent there has been intent to mislead the court and the extent of corruption leading to non-disclosure of materials against Ibori”.
With tension rising between the Judge and Ibori’s lead counsel, said: “I know that your (Ibori’s defence team) position has always been that this case be litigated sooner than later, you have always opposed the crown on stay of proceeding, only for you to bring an application on Monday for a stay of proceeding, but what I need to know is how does this case going to be affected by the review? I still don’t know where we are going”.
Krolic: “The review into the police corruption not only concerns the safety of the conviction but also of the non-disclosure of materials used against Ibori. The background is that the Prosecution had initially relied on Assumption 72AA of the Criminal Justice Act in only some of the charges only to turn around after three weeks of proceedings when the case had been closed and submission made by all parties to inform the court that the Defence team had confused them and that they would now be seeking to apply Assumption 72AA across board.
“At the closing, the Crown claimed that they were confused and Judge, Anthony Pitts, said he was also confused and ordered the confiscation proceedings to start afresh permitting the Crown to apply Section 72AA across board. We say, they (Crown Prosecution) said to the Judge that they were confused and if the Court’s ruling was based on the intention by the Crown Prosecution to mislead the Court, we say that was an abuse of Court Process”.
Swayed by the appeal to the very concept of justice, the new lead Crown Prosecution Counsel, (the earlier one, Shasha Wass as well as all others involved in investigating and prosecuting Ibori and his associates have since been dropped from the case over charges of impropriety and corruption) Mr. Kinnear QC, interrupted the argument, saying: “I on behalf of the Crown have always said that in the interest of Justice that the case be adjourned until the conclusion of the disclosure review. Your Honour, , we ask, is it in the interest of Justice that this matter be adjourned? Our response will be a resounding Yes. We can’t trample on the defendant’s right – in the interest of justice. Your Honour, the application to adjourn is an application this court must accede to in the interest of justice”.
Now it became a dangerous situation where the Crown Prosecution sided of the Defence team, pleading nothing but “fairness and justice” and the judge, yielded: “I am influenced by the submission of the Crown, I do therefore agree that this confiscation proceeding should therefore adjourn”.
And Ibori had won the day! On the allegation of abuse of court process and the court’s being misled, issues that touch in the heart of dispensing justice in British jurisprudence, as the mainstream British media, from the BBC to the major newspapers such as the Sunday Times, telegraph, Mirror and The Guardian have written about the Police corruption in the case, Judge Tomlinson said “Issues raised on behalf of Mr Ibori is that Mr Kinnear’s predecessor manipulated proceedings, that does appear to me that it is a discreet matter that I can’t allow to go away, that previous counsel either misled or manipulated the court to abort the proceeding”.
The Review will be internal to the London Metropolitan Police, but the mass media whose exactions over the years have been drumming that the review be made, will still be there to watch and ensure that nothing inappropriate is swept under the carpet.
According to the statement, the import of that Wednesday’s court victory is immense: Ibori now stands a good chance of having his guilty plea and conviction revisited and probably quashed if the Review into Disclosure and Police Corruption establishes that indeed there has been failings leading to corruption on the part of the British police during investigation and the Prosecution deliberately withheld the materials used against Ibori, just to manipulate the court in securing Ibori’s conviction.
Beyond all else, the conclusion of the Review will pave the way for Ibori’s defence team to appeal against his conviction and seek to quash it. No matter how embarrassing this may be to Britain and her anti-corruption stance, the mass media’s crusade that the rule of law has to be respected even when a government is fighting corruption and that any society that condones police corruption is already mired in corruption, is bearing fruit. Even the British Parliament is watching the case as the members of its hallowed chambers have also discussed it.
This case is likely to resume in October after the outcome of the Review and Ibori’s defence team will decide on how to proceed with the outcome.