Stolen Abacha funds to be repatriated


The United States and British dependency Jersey agreed with Nigeria to repatriate more than $300 million stolen by former military ruler General Sani Abacha, the three governments said.

Abacha ruled Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, from 1993 until his death in 1998. Corruption watchdog Transparency International estimates he stole as much as $5 billion of public money during that time.

He was never charged with corruption during his life and Nigeria has been fighting for years to recover the money.

Companies linked to the Abacha family have gone to court to prevent repatriation, alleging infringement of their rights to a fair trial.

The governments of Nigeria, Jersey and the United States said in a statement they entered an asset recovery agreement to repatriate forfeited assets to Nigeria.

The Nigerian government pegged the total amount at $321 million.

The funds were laundered through the US banking system and held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company, and in the name of the ex-military ruler’s son, they said.

“This agreement is a major victory for Nigeria and other African countries as it recognises crime does not pay and it is important for the international community to support sustainable development through recovery and repatriation of stolen assets,” Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami said.

Nigeria worked with governments around the world on an asset recovery scheme to help repatriate stolen funds to boost its finances.

Government did not state how much in total it believes Abacha stole. As at 2013, Nigeria recovered about $1.3 billion of Abacha money from European jurisdictions, with more than a third from Switzerland.

The Swiss government in 2017 said it would return to Nigeria about $321 million in assets seized from Abacha’s family via a deal signed with the World Bank.

Abacha’s laundering operation extended to the US and European jurisdictions such as Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg, the statement said.

His family, which never admitted or denied funds were stolen, could not be reached for comment and their present whereabouts are not known.

In a separate news release, the US Department of Justice is seeking to enforce forfeiture judgments for approximately $30 million in assets in Britain and more than $144 million in France.

In 2014 a US court forfeited the money as property involved in illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption in Nigeria when Abacha was head of state. Negotiations for repatriation commenced in 2018.

The funds will be administered by Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund and be used to develop road infrastructure to boost supply chain connections and economic growth, Malami said.