Nigeria's graft-facing ex-governor arrested in Dubai

13th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A fugitive Nigerian former governor facing charges of siphoning off millions of dollars of state assets and money laundering has been arrested in Dubai, the anti-graft police said Thursday.

James Ibori, governor of the southern oil rich Delta between 1999 to 2007, was arrested by Interpol on Wednesday.

"It has been confirmed that he was arrested by the Interpol," Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief Farida Waziri told reporters.

Ibori is charged with embezzling 290 million dollars (230 million euros) of public funds and money laundering while he was in office.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed Ibori's arrest.

"A 47-year-old man has been arrested yesterday (Wednesday) by authorities in Dubai on suspicion of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud," a police spokesman told AFP Thursday.

"James Onanefe Ibori was detained at the request of the Metropolitan Police Service and is due to appear in court in due course. The UK authorities are seeking extradition."

However, Interpol's office in Abu Dhabi declined to confirm or deny reports of Ibori's arrest. Officials with Dubai and Abu Dhabi police departments said they had no information on Ibori having been arrested.

After he was declared wanted last month, armed militants kept a vigil around his home and blocked security agents from arresting him. He later fled the country.

A federal high court in the state capital Asaba last December acquitted him of a 170-count corruption charge in a ruling critics say was influenced by his closeness to the late president Umaru Yar'Adua.

The affluent Ibori is widely believed to have bankrolled Yar'Adua's election campaign in 2007.

An international arrest warrant was issued against the ex-governor who also faces corruption charges in Britain after the discovery of assets suspected to have been bought with stolen money.

On August 2, 2007, prosecutors made a successful "application of restraint" at Southwark Crown Court in London "in relation to worldwide assets worth 35 million dollars belonging to James Ibori", London police said.

This bid to freeze his assets succeeded.

He is undergoing interrogation by Interpol and the Metropolitan Police and extradition plans are being discussed, Waziri said.

"The man in charge of his case in the UK has dispatched detectives to Dubai and we are sending our own people to join them to start the process for his extradition," she added.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is ranked among some of the most corrupt nations on earth.

Around a dozen former governors who served under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo had been arrested in recent years for corruption.

Governors of Nigeria's 36 states, control millions of dollars of public funds, at times larger than budgets of neighbouring countries.

© 2010 AFP

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