Ex-Goldman Sachs banker jailed in UK in Nigerian corruption case

Mon Dec 9, 2013 10:45am EST
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Goldman Sachs banker Elias Preko was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison by a London court on Monday for laundering $5 million on behalf of James Ibori, the former governor of Nigeria's oil-producing state of Delta.

Ibori is serving 13 years in a British jail after pleading guilty last year to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering. He is the most senior Nigerian politician to be held to account for the corruption that has blighted Africa's most populous country and top oil producer, where the case is being closely watched.

Harvard graduate Preko, 54, became the fifth of Ibori's associates to be jailed for assisting his corruption after the ex-governor's wife, mistress, sister and lawyer were all convicted by British courts in previous trials.

The cases have been tried in London because some of the money was laundered in Britain and some of the defendants were based there. Attempts by Nigeria's own anti-corruption agency to prosecute Ibori, dating back to 2007, have foundered.

A jury at London's Southwark Crown Court unanimously convicted Preko, a Ghanaian national, of two offences of money-laundering between March 2003 and April 2008 when he was arrested.

He was charged with assisting Ibori in channeling stolen money through a web of offshore trusts and shell companies.

Preko had left Goldman Sachs before he committed the offences and the bank is not accused of any wrongdoing. The court heard Preko tried to open accounts on Ibori's behalf when he still worked there but this was not authorized by the bank.

The Delta governor from 1999 to 2007, Ibori was in his heyday a power broker at the heart of Nigeria's ruling party. After he left office and lost immunity from prosecution his fortunes ebbed and flowed according to political developments in Abuja until he was extradited from Dubai to Britain in 2011.   Continued...

Former governor of Nigeria's Delta state James Ibori attends a social function in Lagos in this file photo taken December 10, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer