The former governor of a Nigerian state today admitted fraud totalling nearly £50 million, said to be part of total embezzlement which could exceed £250 million.
James Ibori pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to a series of charges linked to the theft of money from the Delta state and fraud involving state-owned shares in a mobile phone firm.
He admitted one count of conspiracy to launder money, five of money laundering and one of obtaining a property transfer by deception over the theft of more than £25 million while he was governor of the region.
Ibori also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a 37 million US dollar share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company V Mobile.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court Ibori had accepted he was involved in "wide-scale theft, fraud and corruption when he was governor of Delta state".
Ibori allegedly used a false date of birth when he ran for the governorship of Delta state to conceal previous convictions as a criminal record would have excluded him from taking part in the election.
Ms Wass went on: "Mr Ibori tricked his way into public office. He had tricked the Nigerian authorities and the Nigerian voters. He was thus never the legitimate governor of Delta state."
According to prosecutors he is 49, but according to the date of birth he used in Nigeria he would be 53.
Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said it is estimated that Ibori stole around £250 million from the Nigerian state.
He said: "The scale can only be described as huge. Vast sums of money which were used to fund his lavish lifestyle.
"The real harm in this case is the potential loss to people in some of the poorest regions in the world."
Attempts will now be made to confiscate as much of the money as possible, so that it can be returned to the state government, Mr Whatmore said.
Ibori, whose address in England was given as Primrose Hill in north London, was working as a cashier in a branch of a DIY store in Ruislip, Middlesex, when he moved to Nigeria and worked his way up through the political ranks to become a state governor in 1999.
As governor of the state, he was racking up credit card bills of 200,000 US dollars per month on a luxury lifestyle, including running a fleet of armoured Range Rovers.
He was trying to buy a plane for £20 million at the time he was arrested.
Ibori will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on April 16 and 17.
His wife Theresa Ibori, sister Christine Ibori-Idie, mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo and London-based solicitor Bhadresh Gohil have all already been convicted of money-laundering.