The international crime scene recently went agog with the arrest of one James Onanefe Ibori in Dubai. The incident may have been just another routine arrest, except that it was made by the Interpol (international police agency), and the individual in question was a Nigerian. Mr. James Ibori, wealthy politician and former governor of the oil rich Delta state of Nigeria was apprehended in Dubai where he was attempting to evade arrest from his home country Nigeria.
The Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC) in Nigeria had declared him wanted in connection with the embezzlement of $290 million dollars during his tenure as governor. Incidentally, the London Metropolitan police had also been hot on his trails for international money laundering. In one of the classic cases of International police cooperation, Mr. Ibori’s detention and eventual trial gives impetus to the global fight against crime. The world has become a global village. And just as we have witnessed dramatic advancement in technology, we have also had commensurate progress in crime and criminality.
The scope of crime, whether financial or non financial, transcends borders, culture and creed. And as such any nation attempting to fight crime alone has failed long before it has begun. This is why American president Obama is rallying the entire world to join hands with him in the battle against terrorism. Even the most technologically advanced nation seems helpless when trying to fight crime on its own. In the case mentioned above, three countries are affected by cross border financial crime.
In Nigeria, dealing with a man as powerful as Ibori might prove daunting. With his immense wealth and political connections, he has repeatedly evaded the law. Very recently in Nigeria, he had a 170 count corruption charge thrown out of court for insufficient evidence! When declared wanted again, he escaped the country surreptitiously. However, with hard evidence being offered by the London Metropolitan Police, including the freezing of Mr. Ibori’s assets to the tune of $35 million dollars in 2007, vital progress is being made.
It should also be noted, that where the Nigerian anti corruption agency, and the London Metropolitan polices’ reach proved limited, the Dubai Interpol stepped in and made International policing one efficient, seamless exercise. Of course the drama is still far from finished, as Ibori has assembled a team of lawyers to fight against his extradition to the United Kingdom to face money laundering charges. What is however some form of consolation is the fact that collaboration in international policing is not only working, but seems to be yielding dividend.
There however remain some gray areas that need to be sorted out as we move to achieve a better and more secure world. First, our international borders need to be made more secure, with the relevant security information disseminated expeditiously. How was Ibori able to escape to Dubai? Secondly, the international criminal code needs to be harmonized so that issues of jurisdiction can be worked out. Finally, there is the need for more active involvement by political leaders in the fight against international crime.