US returns another $20.6m Abacha loot to Nigeria

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) said it had transferred $20.6 million to the Nigerian government in accordance with an August 23 agreement between the governments to repatriate assets stolen by late dictator General Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators.

According to a statement published on the DoJ website last Thursday, the repatriation brings the total amount forfeited and returned by the US in this case to approximately $332.4 million.

In 2020, the department repatriated over $311.7 million of the forfeited assets that had been located in the Bailiwick of Jersey.

Last year, the United Kingdom enforced the US judgment against the additional $20.6 million.

In 2014, a judgment was entered in the District of Columbia ordering the forfeiture of approximately $500 million located in accounts around the world, as the result of a civil forfeiture complaint for more than $625 million traceable to money laundering involving the proceeds of Abacha’s corruption.

The forfeited assets represent corrupt monies laundered during and after the military regime of Abacha, who became Head of State through a military coup on November 17, 1993, and held that position until his death on June 8, 1998.

The complaint filed in the case alleged that Abacha, his son Mohammed, their associate, Abubakar Bagudu, now Kebbi State Governor, and others, embezzled, misappropriated, and extorted billions of dollars from the government coffers and others, and then laundered their criminal proceeds through US financial institutions and transactions.

The statement read, “The United Kingdom’s cooperation in the investigation, restraint, and enforcement of the US judgment, along with the valuable contributions of Nigeria and other law enforcement partners around the world, including the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, as well as those of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, have been instrumental to the recovery of these funds.

“Under the agreement signed in August, the US agreed to transfer 100 per cent of the net forfeited assets to Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects in Nigeria that were previously authorised by Nigerian President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the Nigerian legislature.

“The $20,637,622.27 marks a slight reduction from the $23 million announced in August due primarily to exchange rate fluctuations between British pounds sterling and US dollars. The funds governed by this agreement will help finance the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kano road – investments that will benefit the citizens.”

The department appreciated the extensive assistance provided by the governments of the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Jersey, and France in this investigation.

It added that the case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section working in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The US encouraged individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the US to contact federal law enforcement or send an email to kleptocracy@usdoj.gov.

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