The London court sentenced James Ibori, former governor of Nigeria’s Delta state, to 13 years in prison Tuesday (April 17) for embezzling Nigerian public funds. The stolen money, according to Metropolitan Police Service’s Proceeds of Corruption unit’s estimates, amounted to $250 million. Ibori pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in February.
For a poor country like Nigeria, that amount of money could have provided education for 400,000 children or hand pumps for 450,000 households, according to the U.K. Department for International Development. The agency funds the Proceeds of Corruption Unit.
“Corruption is a cancer in developing countries,” Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said, adding that the United Kingdom has “zero tolerance” to it.
No British aid was compromised in the incident, but DfID said it is “leading the process” to return the stolen money back to whom it was meant for — Nigeria’s poorest people. Mitchell said Ibori’s sentence sends a “strong message” to criminals seeking to use Britain as a refuge. Ibori reportedly laundered the embezzled money in London through a number of offshore companies, The Guardian reports.
Corruption issues have often hampered development, with donors pulling out or suspending aid. Reports of corruption caused the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to cancel its Round 11 funding last year as donors either suspended or delayed funding, threatening gains made against HIV and AIDS. The construction of the Padma Bridge in Bangladesh has also been put on hold due to corruption allegations. The bridge is a key infrastructure project that would link southwestern Bangladesh to the central and eastern parts of the country.
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