The British government is prepared to take a stronger stance and apply sterner measures to corrupt politicians who embezzle the wealth of poor nations to fund lavish lifestyles in Europe, the Cable News Network reported.
Last month, a London Court convicted and sentenced former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was found guilty on a 10-count charge of fraud and money laundering.
The infamous Nigerian politician, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to stealing and laundering over $80 million, lived in the lap of luxury. Ibori’s annual salary was about $6,000, but the former governor of the oil rich state was able to afford luxury properties, expensive and exotic cars, first class travel, private boarding school fees and a private jet worth $20 million.
The incident now has the British government bearing down on the corrupt political elite.
In the CNN report, head of the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Benton, said the British government can no longer turn the other way.
He said, “We hope that, by tackling the likes of James Ibori, we’re saying to those stealing from the state purse, you can’t have your children at private school in London. You can’t have a multimillion pound house in one of the most affluent areas of London. You can’t drive around in top of the range vehicles. We won’t let you move money around to buy multimillion pound jets.”
The unit, which investigated the Ibori case for seven years, is funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development, and its staff of a dozen or so detectives trace the flow of foreign politicians’ money through London.
According to the CNN report, Ibori was tactful in his illegal financial practices. “He inflated contracts, took kickbacks and simply transferred cash out of state accounts,” the report said, a feat he accomplished with the aid of his wife and alleged mistress, as well as some London based professional.
Robert Palmer from anti-corruption NGO Global Witness said London is doubly appealing to corrupt politicians as it is a “major financial and legal center so there’s a lot of expertise, and there’s also a lot of assets that go through the British financial institution, so it’s easier to disguise your assets”.
Palmer described London as fast becoming a great place to spend “illicit loot”, adding that “there’s a prestige about being able to bring your assets and your wealth into the UK”.
In March, the Financial Services Authority fined Coutts, a private arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, a record $14 million for failing to monitor three-quarters of its high-risk customers, known as Politically Exposed Persons, CNN writes.
Chandu Krishnan of Transperency International called for strict sanctions on banks that aid corrupt politicians.
“And the greater the severity of penalties, the greater the deterrent effect. And that will ensure fewer institutions would commit these offenses.”
Palmer agreed, saying that Ibori’s prosecutors found the former governor and associates “had accounts with Barclays, HSBC, Citibank. He had a Centurion American Express card. These are major financial institutions that all took money from James Ibori and his associates”.
“I think the only way we’re going to get serious change is if you have heavy penalties, you go after individual bankers and, in the worst cases, in the most egregious failures, you put people in jail.”