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Financial Crimes
10/12/2012

Department of Justice/HSI executes restraint against additional $4 million in assets of former Nigerian governor

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice has executed restraints on more than $4 million in additional corruption proceeds in connection with the prosecution and conviction in the United Kingdom of James Onanefe Ibori, the former governor of Nigeria's oil-rich Delta State. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, HSI Asset Identification and Removal Group in Miami, and HSI Attaché London.

As a result of this action, the United States has restrained more than $7 million in assets tied to Ibori and his associates, including the $4 million that were restrained last week and more than $3 million in assets previously made subject to a restraining order issued May 22 by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

"This serves as a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the U.S. financial system," said ICE Director John Morton. "HSI special agents will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section to investigate and prosecute those involved in such illicit activities and hold corrupt foreign officials accountable by denying them the satisfaction of their illegal earnings."

Specifically, the Department of Justice filed an application to supplement the prior order in the District of Columbia to identify for restraint a luxury condominium unit at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., as well as proceeds from the sale of another condominium, a penthouse unit, located at the Ritz-Carlton. On Oct. 4, 2012, the district court amended its prior order to name these additional assets, which the United States executed against the Ritz-Carlton condominium and more than $3 million in proceeds from the sale of the penthouse unit. The United States is working closely with the United Kingdom's Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service to forfeit these corruption proceeds.

According to the original and supplemental applications, Ibori served as the governor of Delta State from 1999 to 2007, and misappropriated millions of dollars in Delta State funds. He laundered those proceeds through a myriad of shell companies, intermediaries and nominees in several jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. Although Nigeria's Constitution prohibits state governors from maintaining foreign bank accounts and serving as directors of private companies, Ibori and his associates accumulated millions of dollars in assets in the United Kingdom and the United States, according to the applications. Ibori was convicted in the United Kingdom of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced April 18 by a British court to 13 years in prison.

This case is part of the Justice Department's (DOJ) Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. This initiative is carried out by a dedicated team of prosecutors in the Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and where appropriate return those proceeds to benefit those harmed.

Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through institutions in the United States should contact federal law enforcement or email kleptocracy@usdoj.gov.

HSI's Foreign Corruption Investigations Group in Miami targets corrupt foreign officials around the world that attempt to utilize U.S. financial institutions to launder illicit funds. The group conducts investigations into the laundering of proceeds emanating from foreign public corruption, bribery or embezzlement. The objective is to prevent foreign derived ill-gotten gains from entering the U.S. financial infrastructure, to seize identified assets in the United States and repatriate these funds on behalf of those affected.

The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Woo S. Lee and Elizabeth Aloi of the DOJ Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.