The confiscation hearing
against former Delta State Governor, James Onanefe Ibori, reopened on Wednesday at a London Crown Court with the British Crown Prosecution lead counsel, Sasha Wass, calling for a full retrial of the entire case.
Wass informed the court that the Crown Prosecution would be seeking a total retrial of the entire case which ended in December when Judge Anthony Pitts asked for more evidence to enable him make an appropriate decision.
Ibori’s lead counsel, Ivan Krolic QC, strongly objected to the Crown Prosecution’s request to start the case afresh.
“That is the position of the Crown Prosecution which we don’t accept. The function of the court in confiscation hearing is to consider which individual has benefited from proceeds of crime and to what amount,” he said.
On the points of law, Krolic spoke directly to the judge: “Your Honour has no jurisdiction to abort the earlier proceeding; we say the court should not continue to act where it has no jurisdiction”.
He maintained that the dictates of the law is that a case that is due for ruling should be allowed to be concluded whether or not a party in the case has done their duties well or not and that it is not the duty of the court to aid any party in a suit or restart a case when convinced that one side in a suit has not adduced enough evidence to prove its point.
The Crown Prosecution confessed in court that Ibori’s lawyers had confused them by changing their submissions and this “surprised and confused the prosecution”, thereby preventing the prosecution from knowing where the case was leading.
This made the prosecution to pray the court to adjourn in December for it to present more evidence to help the court in reaching a decision.
Krolic replied that “the suggestion by the Crown that they were taken by surprise in my respectful submission is nonsense” because “the Crown could not have been surprised… I can’t cross-examine the court, but if the court was surprised, it should not have been”.
Krolic then recounted the rigorous process the entire proceedings had gone through, including the cross examination of prosecution witness, noting that the court was ready for judgement before the case was suddenly and surprisingly adjourned in December – just to prove his case that the Crown prosecution was fully aware of where the case was going as well as the stance of the defence.
Krolic then said: “We are being accused of changing our case, the prosecution say they don’t know what our case was, your Honour the Crown knows what the case was, the Crown has failed to provide the court the evidence upon which they rely.
“What we say is this, your Honour quite clearly indicated on October 7 last year that the Crown has in your Honour’s view not done enough because they simply relied on Ibori’s guilty plea and statements and had not provided you with any evidence to prove their case”.
Faulting further the Crown’s application for a fresh confiscation proceeding, Krolic said “the Crown then applied to have the proceedings adjourned as to enable them put more witnesses before the court from Africa and possibly other pieces of evidence that were never mentioned before in court or in any papers and the court granted that application.
Ibori’s lead counsel then submitted his main position “we say that the prosecution having closed their case, they should not be entitled to restart the same case.
The court has no powers to say in relation to one party that had closed its case – “you have not produced enough evidence, what I am going to do is to allow you restart the case”.
Udoamaka Okoronkwo was on Wednesday joined in the confiscation case with Ibori.
Judge Anthony Pitts adjourned the hearing till Friday to allow prosecution lead counsel, Sasha Wass, attend to some other cases.
The confiscation hearing