James Onanefe Ibori

James Onanefe Ibori

A Tory MP is embroiled in controversy after allegations that he “lobbied” on behalf of a Nigerian politician accused of plundering millions of pounds of state funds, the British Independent. Newspaper has reported.

Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury, wrote to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, expressing concern at the investigation into James Onanefe Ibori and warning it could damage British business interests in Nigeria.

It is believed he also criticised a freezing order on Mr Ibori’s assets. The letter was copied to the Attorney General’s office, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.

The letter is understood to refer to an investigation by Scotland Yard detectives which concluded that police believed Mr Ibori, the former governor of the oil-rich Delta state, had siphoned off state funds and laundered cash through British banks which he used to buy a private jet, a £4m house in London, a second home in Dorset and expensive cars.

Mr Baldry’s letter has angered Nigerian groups in the UK. Kayode Ogundamisi of the Nigerian Liberty Foundation said the British MP’s involvement was “completely unacceptable” and amounted to “political lobbying”. “The interests of the Nigerian and British public in the prosecution of this case cannot be overemphasised,” he said.

Critics claim that Nigeria’s efforts at targeting political corruption have stalled since President Umaru Yar’Adua came to power.

They claim that Mr Baldry met the Nigerian President shortly before writing the letter. Mr Ibori is in Nigeria and faces arrest if he returns to the UK. He was regarded as a possible Nigerian presidential candidate until he was investigated for allegedly plundering state funds.

Read more details at The Independent

See also: Africa’s illicit money sent to Western banks