FG, US Government Signs Deal for Returning Abacha Loot

Over $23 million of the Abacha money would be returned, according to a deal made between Nigeria and the US government.

On Tuesday, Mr Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation hosted the agreement signing ceremony in his office.

While Mr Malami signed on behalf of the Nigerian government, Mary Beth Leonard, the United States ambassador to Nigeria, signed on behalf of her country.

Mr Malami claims that the money will be put into three Federal Government projects, including the 2nd Niger Bridge and the ongoing Abuja-Kaduna road, when it is returned.

The Abacha loot—proceeds thought to have been stolen from state coffers by the military regime of General Sani Abacha in the 1990s—has previously been recovered by Nigeria in numerous different tranches.

Additionally, the US and Jersey agreed to restore $308 million in confiscated money to Nigeria in 2020.

Around $723 million in Abacha loot was sent back to Nigeria from Switzerland in 2006.

The US, in a statement signed by its Department of Justice, said the latest tranche would increase the total amount forfeited to approximately $334.7 million.

“In 2014, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia entered a judgment 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 statement said.

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

“Last year, the U.K. government enforced the U.S. judgment against the additional $23 million.”

“This repatriation of $23 million reflects the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to recover and return corruption proceeds laundered through the U.S. financial system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the US Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The US commended the United Kingdom for its cooperation in recovering the assets.

“The complaint alleges that General Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and others embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through U.S. financial institutions and transactions in the United States,” the US DOJ statement said.

“The United Kingdom’s cooperation in the investigation, restraint and enforcement of the U.S. judgement, 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.

The US further pointed out that, to prevent mismanagement, the repatriation funds had been designated for particular purposes.

“Under the agreement signed today, the United States will transfer 100% of the net forfeited assets to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects in Nigeria that were previously authorised by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian legislature,” the US said.

“Specifically, 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 of each of these important regions in Nigeria.

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