By Samuel Rubenfeld
Bhadresh Gohil, who has represented Delta State Gov. James Onanefe Ibori, was found guilty in November for his role in a scheme to sell $37 million in shares of Nigerian telecom company V-Mobile (now Airtel), the profits of which were then laundered. He later pleaded guilty to other charges lodged against him.
The presiding judge called Gohil the “architect” of the scheme, adding that “it’s said the real villains are in Nigeria, but this fraud required special expertise and you lent yourself to it.”
Other officials implicated in the scheme are at large, including the Nigerian governor.
Ibori, who was one of the targets of the Global Witness “International Thief Thief” report for allegedly laundering millions of state assets through U.K. banks, is fighting extradition from Dubai to London to face money laundering charges. Ibori allegedly stole $290 million while governor, according to the Nigerian anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He’s long denied the charges.
Ibori’s wife, Theresa Nkoyo, received a five-year sentence in November for money laundering in the same case as Gohil.
Calling Gohil the “fallguy” for the alleged crimes of the governor, a statement from the family said the “case [was] based entirely on the unproven assumption that Ibori himself obtained the money illegally and the inference therefore that his solicitor acted unlawfully in handling the funds on his behalf.
“It is only Bhadresh Gohil, a reputable UK-based solicitor, a family man, who has been used as a scapegoat for the wrath of those against Ibori, and who must ultimately take the blame for the controversial politician’s alleged actions. Is this justice?” the statement said.