Money Laundering Trial of James Ibori’s Lawyer And Wife Commences on Monday In London
Mr. Gohil, whose full name is “Bhadresh Babulal Gohil,” is an English solicitor who was enrolled on March 16 1992. He is the junior partner in the two-partner law firm, Arlingtons Sharmas Solicitors of 6 Arlington Street, St James, London. According to the firm’s website: “Arlingtons Sharmas Solicitors is a firm focusing on providing personal service to its commercial and private client base in the United Kingdom and internationally including India, Africa and the Middle East.
” Mr Gohil’s landmark prosecution is rare in the UK where lawyers frequently engage in money laundering activities undetected. For years, corrupt Nigerian public officials and members of their families and associates (otherwise known as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) in money laundering parlance) have employed the services of British lawyers and accountants to make London their money-laundering destination of choice. But Gohil is the first of such professionals to be prosecuted in the UK. During the eight years (May 1999 to May 2007), the 48-year old Ibori was governor of Delta State, he illegally transferred close to £20 million pounds out of the coffers of the state to the United Kingdom.
Most of the looting was undertaken between 2005 and 2006, using cronies, relatives, girlfriends, and shell companies. Documents made exclusively available to Saharareporters show that Ibori first engaged Gohil’s services in the registration of Haleway Properties Limited, one the former governor’s front companies used in buying high-priced real estate in London. Haleway Properties is registered in Gibraltar. But Mr. Gohil’s most significant engagement with Ibori was over Telaton Quays Limited, another company that was registered in the British Virgin Islands and used to purchase his infamous Challenger jet from Bombardier Incorporated in Canada. Mr. Gohil’s law firm incorporated Telaton Quays, which also owns 42 Great Ground Street, Shaftsbury in Dorset (UK).
Mr. Gohil also incorporated another company, Erin Aviation Limited, in Mauritius. Erin Aviation received an assignment from Telaton Quays Limited to help in the purchase of the Bombardier jet. The contract with Bombardier Incorporated was executed by way of a deed of assignment made on December 14 2006 between Telaton Quays Limited, Bombardier Inc. and Erin Aviation Limited.
Saharareporters learnt that funds for the purchase of the $20 million Bombardier Challenger 604 jet were paid to the jet manufacturer through different shell companies around the globe. First, the sum of $4.7 million was transferred to Bombardier from a Mauritius-based Parabola International Corp through Mr. Gohil’s firm, Arlington Sharmas, in London. The money from Parabola originated from an account opened and maintained by James Ibori in Switzerland in the name of a company known as “Stanhope.”
Further funds were transferred to Sharmas’ solicitors in London from a Lagos-based aviation company, Wings Aviation Limited, the company which owned the Beechcraft airliner that crashed into a thick forest in Cross River State in March 2008. Gohil was the central figure in the Bombardier Challenger jet transactions. He incorporated Telaton Quays and was the authorized signatory in the deal to purchase the Challenger jet. According to the documents available to SaharaReporters, he is also known to have coordinated the purchase of the Challenger jet with Mr. Nogie Meggison, the director of Wings Aviation. Theresa’s trial with Gohil, which the lawyer has unsuccessfully tried to resist, pertains to a number of transactions invoking the duo. Documents available to Saharareporters show that Mr. Gohil assisted Theresa Ibori to open a bank account with American Intercapital Depository & Trust (AIDT) in Colorado, USA, partly by supplying a false reference letter to the bank confirming he had known her for 4 years and recommending her as a suitable customer.
That letter was clearly false; currently the US bank is in liquidation and the Metropolitan Police have been unable to obtain a statement from it to support the fact that the reference letter sent by Mr. Gohil was used for accounting purposes. However, the evidence will be used to support the trial as a solid lead that there was criminal conspiracy between the two. Further documents show that the former First Lady of Delta State was an intricate part of the purchase of 7 Westover Hill, London, and that she was heavily involved with Mr. Gohil throughout the process of the purchase of the property for £2.2 million. Police investigations also show that the registration of the property through the- Gibraltar-registered Haleway Properties Ltd., amounts to concealing criminal property.
The documents further show that Theresa was heavily involved with the purchase of the Great Ground property in Dorset (owned by Teleton Quays). Teleton Quays was set up and incorporated by Mr. Gohil who showed himself as a Director on company documents. A £311,000 cheque was brought into Arlingtons Sharmas solicitors by Ibori’s mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, drawn on her HSBC account for the purchase of the house.