We didn’t say Ibori owns 30 per cent of Oando, says British prosecutor

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British Crown prosecutor yesterday denied suggesting jailed former Delta State Governor James Ibori owns 30 per cent of Oando Plc.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass’ statement forced the court to rise for 10 minutes to allow calm to return, especially between her and Ibori’s counsel, QC Ivan Krolic and QC Bailey for Oando.

DC Peter Clark was under cross examination by Krolic when he referred to Wass, as having alleged that Ibori owns 30 per cent of Oando.

Cutting in suddenly, Sasha said: ”Your honour, Mr Krolic should use the correct statement used by the prosecution…The Crown has carefully chosen their words; it may well not be correct to say that the Crown said that Mr Ibori owns 30 per cent of Oando.”

As if he did not hear what Sasha said correctly, Krolic proceeded to say: “Your honour, I recall Mr Bailey, counsel to Oando asking the prosecution to withdraw what she said about Ibori owning 30 per cent of Oando.

“If my learned friend, Sasha did not allege that Mr Ibori has 30 per cent share in Oando, there would have been no need for Oando’s counsel, QC Bailey to be in sitting in the court.”

The judge, Anthony Pitts, trying to save the situation said: “ The prosecution did not suggest that Mr Ibori owns 30 per cent of Oando.”

Relying on the sudden turn and retraction from the prosecution and confirmed by the judge, Krolic said: “It appears that there are those that are involved with the media that have concluded that Mr Ibori had 30 per cent of Oando. If in fact my learned friend, referring to the Crown Prosecutor, Sasha Wass, did not say or mean that, the media should be corrected.”

The British prosecution’s reference that Ibori claimed that he owned 30 per cent of Oando became a sensational news, triggering an immediate panic that sent Oando’s share price down by about 25 per cent within three trading sessions at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Ibori, who had pleaded guilty and serving a jail term in United Kingdom for corruption, is undergoing asset confiscation proceedings at the Southwark Crown Court in London. The proceedings started Monday last week.

The management of Oando has consistently maintained that Ibori has no such significant shareholding in the petroleum-marketing company.

At a media parley in Lagos, Deputy Managing Director, Oando, Omamofe Boyo, decried the prosecution’s mention of the company’s name in relation to the ongoing case, describing the linking of the company to the jailed former governor as undue sensationalism and reckless.

He said the prosecution was being unfair to Oando as it has relevant authentic information that the prosecution had independently gathered showing that Ibori might have lied when he made claim of substantial shareholding in Oando.

According to him, Oando was well aware that the London Metropolitan Police came to Nigeria to investigate the claim of Ibori’s shareholdings in Oando and other claims and only discovered that Ibori had less than 400 shares in Oando then.

He said as a publicly listed company, the share register and shares transactions on the company are public documents that can be verified wondering why the prosecution was bent on misleading the court.

He noted that as a public company whose shares are freely traded on the floors of the exchanges in Lagos and Johannesburg, Oando cannot determine who should or not buy its shares.

He regretted the sensationalism around the way the case is being run, noting that such recklessness has had effect on an innocent third party, which is Oando Plc.

He insisted that Ibori does not own 30 per cent of Oando or Ocean & Oil or any affiliated companies.

Boyo said the prosecution lawyers had all the evidence of the true situation, describing what had happened since Monday when the trial started in London as “very bizarre.”

He stressed that the company had checked its share registers in South Africa and Nigeria and Ibori only has 443 shares out of the more than 300,000 shareholders of the company.

“We know all of those shareholders that have stake from 0.5 per cent, because there are few shareholders holding one per cent and above,” Boyo said.

 

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