US has repatriated $311m Abacha loot – Malami

The Federal Government, on Monday, confirmed the receipt of $311m looted by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, and repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, said approximately $311,797,866.11 of the Abacha loot was repatriated from the US and Jersey.

According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from over $308m as stated in a press release in February to over $311m because of the interest that accrued from February 3, 2020 to 28th April, 2020 when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The AGF noted that the litigation process for the return of these assets titled “Abacha III” commenced in 2014, while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement on February 3, 2020 by the governments of Nigeria, the US and Jersey commenced in 2018.

“This agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures that set out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition and management of the assets,” he said.

The minister, who led the negotiation team, noted that the Tripartite Agreement and the process towards the implementation represents a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it seeks to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.

He said, “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority within the next 14 days. The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”

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Malami added that the Federal Government had committed that the assets would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, including Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.

He added that the country was in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public.

The statement said, “To ensure transparent management of the returned assets, the Nigerian government will also engage a civil society organisation, who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.”

The recovered funds were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey. In 2014, a US Federal Court in Washington D.C. 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 Abacha was Head of State.

According to the statement, in 2017, the country filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of the funds and as the victim of the action of Abacha.

Malami called for greater cooperation and mutual respect amongst countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.

He further assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would ensure that the returned assets are transparently managed.

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(PUNCH)

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