Ex-Goldman Sachs banker ordered to pay back £7.3m he laundered for corrupt Nigerian politician

London banker was ‘lynchpin’ in scheme to channel stolen funds through UK, says National Crime Agency

Chris Baynes
Friday 06 September 2019 21:38
Former Delta governor James Ibori stole at least £50m from the Nigerian state
Former Delta governor James Ibori stole at least £50m from the Nigerian state

A former Goldman Sachs investment banker who laundered money for a corrupt Nigerian state governor has been ordered by a British court to pay back £7.3m or face 10 years in prison.

Elias Preko, 60, was jailed for four and a half years in 2013 after admitting handling millions plundered by James Ibori from the oil-rich Delta state.

A judge at Southwark Crown Court this week told Preko he must pay back £7,324,268 within three months or serve an additional decade behind bars.

The confiscation order follows an investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Kim Kitney, the agency’s head of financial investigations, said: “Professional enablers such as Elias Preko, who use their legitimate position within the finance industry to conceal the illicit funds of criminals and corrupt elites, are the lynchpin of the billions of dollars laundered through the UK each year.”

Preko, a Ghanaian national, had dealt with West African clients for Goldman Sachs in London but left the investment bank in 2001 when it refused to act on behalf of Ibori due to “suspicions and risk”, the NCA said.

The banker subsequently took on Ibori as his client and helped him channel £3.2m in stolen money through a web of offshore trusts and shell companies.

Ibori, Delta’s governor from 1999 until 2007, was an influential figure in Nigeria’s ruling party in his heyday but was arrested in Abuja after leaving office and losing immunity from prosecution.

He fled to Dubai to escape corruption charges but was extradited to London in 2011. He was jailed for 13 years after admitting laundering £50m, a sum which a judge said may be a “ludicrously low” fraction of the total amount stolen.

Preko, a Harvard graduate who lived in Regent’s Park before his arrest, was the fifth of Ibori’s associates to be imprisoned for assisting his corruption after the ex-governor’s wife, mistress, sister and lawyer were convicted.

He had left Goldman Sachs before he committed his crimes and the bank is not accused of wrongdoing. The court heard he had tried to open accounts on Ibori’s behalf when he still worked at the bank but was blocked by his managers.

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The cases were tried in London because some of the money was laundered in Britain and some of the defendants were based there, while attempts by Nigeria’s own anti-corruption agency to prosecute Ibori have foundered.

Confiscation proceedings against Ibori in the UK are ongoing.

Ms Kitney said: “Pursuing, prosecuting and making them pay is a priority for the NCA and we will continue to target these corrupt individuals to drive illicit finance out of the UK.”