Thursday, 28 January 2010

You will not escape justice! A reply to British MP Tony Baldry for Lobbying on behalf of James Ibori

Dear Mr Baldry:

1. I refer to your letter to me dated 8 January 2010. In the letter, you admitted writing a letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Attorney-General, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria on behalf of the serial convict Mr James Ibori. 2. In the letter you alleged that: “The letter I wrote concerning Nigeria was entirely in my capacity as a barrister, properly instructed and fully in accord with the Code of Conduct for the Bar.” 3. You will be aware that Part X of the Code Conduct for the Bar provides a comprehensive definition of legal services. It provides that: ‘"legal services" includes legal advice, representation and drafting or settling any statement of case witness statement affidavit or other legal document but does not include:
(a) sitting as a judge or arbitrator or acting as a mediator; (b) lecturing in or teaching law or writing or editing law books articles or reports; (c) examining newspapers, periodicals, books, scripts and other publications for libel, breach of copyright, contempt of court and the like; (d) communicating to or in the press or other media; (e) exercising the powers of a commissioner for oaths; (f) giving advice on legal matters free to a friend or relative or acting as unpaid or honorary legal adviser to any charitable benevolent or philanthropic institution ...’ 4. Therefore not everything done by a barrister is done in his or her capacity as a barrister and thereby in accord with the Code of Conduct for the Bar. I suggest that lobbying fellow Members of Parliament in senior Cabinet positions to interfere politically with ongoing judicial and prosecutorial is not covered by the above definition of ‘legal services’ under the Code of Conduct for the Bar.5. In a similar letter to SaharaReporters you referred to section 303(a) of the Code of Conduct for the Bar. You stated: “I would simply observe that the Code of Conduct for the Bar in the England states that ‘. . . a Barrister must promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means the lay client’s best interests and do so without regard to his own interests or to any consequence to himself or any other person’.”6. You appeared to have overlooked the fact that said section 303(a) of the Code of Conduct for the Bar is found under the part of the Code specifically listed as “applicable to practising barristers.” It does not cover political lobbying. 7. To buttress this point, I refer you to the previous provision of the part of the Code “applicable to practising barristers”, section 302, which provides as follows: “A barrister has an overriding duty to the Court to act with independence in the interests of justice: he must assist the Court in the administration of justice and must not deceive or knowingly or recklessly mislead the Court.”8. It is evident from section 302 that section 303, which you prayed in aid, covers barristers representing their clients in court and related proceedings; not barristers engaged in political lobbying. 9. I suggest that the part of the Code that appears to apply to your conduct in this matter is that ‘applicable to all barristers’, specifically section 301(a), which provides that:
‘A barrister must ... not engage in conduct whether in pursuit of his profession or otherwise which is: (i) … discreditable to a barrister; (ii) prejudicial to the administration of justice; or (iii) likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute.’
10. I suggest further that there is a potential breach of said section 301 of the Code of Conduct for the Bar.

11. In your letter of 8 January you also claimed: “I have taken no action whatsoever in this matter in my capacity as a Member of Parliament.”12. However, it is a well-known fact that Mr Ibori’s was represented by leading Queen’s Counsel from the Criminal Bar during the Restraint Proceedings initiated against him by the Crown in 2007. Similarly, his alleged accomplices currently undergoing prosecution at the Southwark Crown Court are all represented by Queen’s Counsel from the Criminal Bar. You are not known to be a leading Queen’s Counsel from the Criminal Bar and have not been involved in the conduct of the prosecution. The inescapable conclusion therefore is that you were instructed by Ibori’s solicitors because your position and influence as a Member of Parliament to lobby politically on his behalf.13. In any event, section 9 of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament provides that: “Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”14. Furthermore, section 15 provides that: “Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute.”15. The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members drafted specifically to assist Members in discharging the duties placed upon them by the Code of Conduct outlaws “Lobbying for Reward or Consideration”.16. Section 89 explains that on 6 November 1995 the House agreed to the following Resolution relating to lobbying for reward or consideration:“[N]o Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received is receiving or expects to receive—(i) Advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or (ii) urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so, by means of any … approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown."17. Section 91 provides that: ‘the Resolution does not prevent a Member from holding a remunerated outside interest as a consultant, or adviser, or in any other capacity, whether or not such interests are related to membership of the House. … However, if a financial interest is required to be registered in the Register of Members' Financial Interests … it falls within the scope of the ban on lobbying for reward or consideration.’18. It is on record that you registered the following interest in relation to your work on behalf of Mr James Ibori in the Register of Members' Financial Interests:
“Remunerated employment, office, profession etcPractising barrister, arbitrator and mediator.Zaiwalla & Co., solicitors. Address: Sarosh Zaiwalla Esq., Zaiwalla & Co., 46-47 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1JEReceived fee of £22,012.57 for advising clients. Hours: 16 hrs. (Registered 28 September 2009)Received fee of £10,000 for advising clients. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 11 November 2009)Received fee of £5000 for advising clients. 5 hrs. (Registered 15 December 2009.”19. Therefore your conduct in this matter appears to amount to Lobbying for Reward or Consideration under section 89 in breach of Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament and is not covered by the exemption in section 91.20. For completeness, I refer you to section 7 of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, which set out the following principles that “will be taken into consideration when any complaint is received of breaches of the provisions in other sections of the Code”:
Selflessness - Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. Integrity - Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties. Accountability - Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office. Openness - Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands. Honesty - Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest. Leadership - Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example. 21. As you indicated in your letter of 8 January 2010, I have already written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to investigate possible breaches of the money laundering legislation arising from your intervention in this matter. However, in view of your recent claims that your intervention on behalf of Mr Ibori “has been fully in accord with the Code of Conduct for the Bar” and that any alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament “would be demonstrably shown to be groundless”, I will forward a copy of this letter and other relevant documents to the Bar Standards Board of England and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards respectively for further investigation.22. It is possible that further potential breaches of the relevant rules of conduct will come to light when your five-page letter of intervention is eventually disclosed. I do not expect you to disclose this letter voluntarily but I am happy to be surprised

.Yours sincerelyKayode Ogundamisi For Nigeria Liberty Forum