A Briefcase Full of Cash

A Story of Corruption and Justice

Estelle Shirbon

How do you hold the powerful to account when everyone has their price?

In April 2012 a Nigerian ex-governor, James Ibori, was sentenced to 13 years for fraud at Southwark Crown Court. He had stolen so much money from the state he governed that he could afford a private jet, a portfolio of opulent homes across the world and a fleet of luxury cars. His victims were the millions of Nigerians living without running water or electricity, and his collaborators the British lawyers, bankers, car dealers and estate agents who at best turned a blind eye to his plundering and at worst actively assisted it.

Ibori’s conviction is unique: no corrupt foreign politician laundering their dirty money through the UK had been prosecuted in a British court before him, and none have been successfully prosecuted since. The story of how it happened is as extraordinary as the conviction itself: a David and Goliath tale of a lowly British copper who followed a briefcase full of cash from South London to Abuja, where he linked up with Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption crusader, and embarked on an 8 year investigation which comprised outlandish disguises, arson, secret compartments, car chases, assassination attempts, $15 million bribes and remarkable reversals in fortune.

For fans of Netflix’s Narcos or HBO’s Chernobyl, and in the vein of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Barbara Demnick’s Nothing to Envy, A Briefcase Full of Cash is a lively account that confronts the challenges of bringing the powerful to justice, and the true cost of corruption.