Nigeria and U.S sign landmark agreement for the return of $308 million looted by former Military Head of State, Sani Abacha

Former Nigerian President General Sani Abacha walks past a line of military troops March 23 during the departure ceremony for Pope John Paul II who was ending a three day visit to the country. NIGERIA POPE (Reuters)
  • The United States finally agrees to return over $300 million funds looted by a former military Head of State, Sani Abacha, to Nigeria.
  • The US government says General Abacha and his associates stole and laundered many hundreds of millions of dollars of public money during his military regime.
  • The agreement was signed by the Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Government of the United States.

The Nigerian government and the United States, on Monday, February 3rd, 2020, entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate over $308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria.

The agreement - a major watershed in international cooperation in asset recovery and repatriation -was signed by the Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States.

According to a statement from the U.S. Mission Nigeria, the funds were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha.

Mark Temple QC, the Solicitor General, and Attorney General-designate of Jersey, who signed the Agreement on behalf of Jersey, said, “This Agreement represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by Law Officers in Jersey, the United States, and Nigeria. The return of the assets to Nigeria had been delayed by several hard-fought challenges by third parties which were defeated in the Courts in Jersey and the United States.

“The Agreement establishes a framework based on fruitful co-operation, trust and respect so that the forfeited funds can be repatriated to benefit the people of Nigeria, from whom they had been taken. The use of the funds will be subject to monitoring and reporting obligations.

“This is a very significant achievement, and, once again, demonstrates Jersey’s commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.”

Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to supervise funds

The US government said the funds will be expended will be administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority for various projects and independently audited.

While the Nigerian government establishes a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress, civil societies will provide additional monitoring and oversight in consultation with the other parties.

Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, called on civil society organisations and the Nigerian public to monitor the implementation of the key infrastructure projects.

He said the funds will be used to "enhance road transportation in Nigeria".

Background of the story

In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington DC forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State.

“At the time the case was filed as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2013, it was the largest U.S. kleptocracy forfeiture action ever commenced. In 2014 the Attorney General of Jersey applied for and was granted, a Property Restraint Order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville. This was challenged in the Royal Court of Jersey and Court of Appeal, and an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council by Doraville was refused. France and the United Kingdom restrained additional funds at U.S. Request,” the statement added.

The US government said General Abacha and his associates stole and laundered many hundreds of millions of dollars of public money during his military regime.

The monies were laundered by his family, including his sons Ibrahim and Moha.

This is not the first time the government is repatriating Abacha loot from foreign countries. In 2012, a Swiss judge gave a forfeiture order to the effect $322.5 million recovered from the family of late General Abacha.

The disbursements, monitored by the World Bank, are being expended on the National Social Investment Programme.

Another bank account containing $274.9 million looted by the late Abacha was recently discovered on the Channel Islands, an island between England and France.


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