Britain’s leading fraud prosecutor is evaluating material alleging UK aid might have been channeled to companies linked to James Ibori, a jailed Nigerian former oil state governor, a top government lawyer said on Wednesday.
“As part of that review, it (the Serious Fraud Office) is examining whether there is any indication of an offence falling within the criminal jurisdiction of England and Wales as opposed to criminal jurisdictions overseas,” Solicitor-General Oliver Heald said in written response to a parliamentary question.
“No formal decision has yet been made in relation to this matter and no investigation has been opened.”
The Serious Fraud Office confirmed it had received material from the government’s Department for International Development this February but said it was too soon to say whether it would launch an investigation.
A full-blown investigation could be an embarrassment to Prime Minister David Cameron, who brushed aside criticism at home to last year to increase development aid – aimed at alleviating some of the world’s most abject poverty – by nearly a third to $19 billion at a time of austerity at home.
Ibori, who governed oil-producing Delta State from 1999 to 2007, was jailed for 13 years in Britain in 2012 after pleading guilty to 10 counts of money-laundering and fraud in one of the biggest embezzlement cases seen in Britain.
He is the most senior politician to be held accountable for the corruption that blights Africa’s most populous nation, where the majority have little or no power or running water.