A former Goldman Sachs banker who helped a corrupt Nigerian politician hide a fortune in offshore accounts has been ordered to pay back £7.3m or face 10 years more in jail.
Ellias Preko, 60, used his ‘gold-plated credentials’ to launder at least £3m plundered by James Ibori, the former governor of Africa’s oil-rich Delta State.
Preko, a Ghanaian national and Harvard graduate, used his ‘expertise and veneer of respectability’ to flush the dirty money out of Nigeria. He was jailed for four and a half years back in 2013 for his role in the scheme. Judge David Tomlison ordered Preko to pay back £7,324.268.41 following a confiscation hearing.
Preko has three months to repay the money or face another 10 years in jail. Ibori, a former DIY store cashier prior his rise into politics, was jailed for 13 years in 2012 after he admitted stealing state funds during an eight-year term of office.
The court heard how he pocketed up to £160 million from government treasuries, depriving some of the world’s poorest people of the cash. Preko, who represented himself, told the court in a previous hearing much of the cash had been spent on election campaigning back in his native Ghana.
He said he had run as candidate for the centre-right NPP party back in the mid-2000s.
Preko explained that Ghana is predominantly a cash based society and that few receipts exist for his campaign spending.
‘Most of the expenses are not receipted,' he said. 'Ghanaian political activities are not financed by the state,' he added. ‘There is a different concept of work there, the difference being everything is cash.
‘Most of the time, people who donate money they donate it to two or more parties and hedge their bets.‘The candidate himself will want to distribute money to targeted areas for food and clothes.’Preko told how he had many political contacts in the African nation. His father-in-law who was a former cabinet minister and helped him run for parliament.
‘Unfortunately there was a military coup and the government was overthrown.‘When I decided that I may want to get involved in politics, my father-in-law introduced me to Prince Audu.’
He explained that the prince had attempted to support candidates who were seen as pro-market modernizers.‘I used to be on the board of the central bank of Ghana. Prince Audu took interest in my because he was also a former banker.
‘His idea was he wanted to support younger professionals who could go back and help and somehow better things in Africa.‘I used to go to Prince Audu’s family home in Hampstead off Prince’s Avenue. ‘Along the line, My Lord, I also got involved with fund raising for the party I have been affiliated with since 1996.’
Preko explained that his fundraising skills meant that other candidates would also seek him out. He told how opposition politicians would tell him they would give him a position: ‘I’ll make you Vice President, I’ll make you a minister,’ Preko said.
‘I spent money to attempt some acceptance because I had been out of the country for so long,' he said. ‘It helps if you spend money because the situation, the economy, is such that people are relatively poor so when you invite them to meetings and you can provide something they will come.
‘It is unfortunate but that is the reality of the ground. I also had to spend money supporting other people running for office.
‘If you go to the grass roots you have to spend money. ‘I gave money to women to build schools, provide scholarships, just to get my name out there.’ Disgraced Ibori, now 60, splashed out on a fleet of luxury motors and blew millions on property in Britain, South Africa and Houston, Texas.
He was in the process of negotiating a purchase on a £12.5m private jet when Scotland Yard detectives caught up with him. Ibori, of Westover Hill, Hampstead, northwest London, admitted seven counts of fraud and money laundering.
Preko, of St Johns Wood Road, St Johns Wood, northwest London, denied charges but was convicted of money laundering.