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04.02.2020 Nigeria

Nigeria to receive $308m stolen by ex-dictator: US

By AFP
Former military dictator Sani Abacha is believed to have looted hundreds of millions of dollars from Nigeria during his rule from 1993 until his death in 1998.  By ISSOUF SANOGO (AFP/File)
LISTEN FEB 4, 2020
Former military dictator Sani Abacha is believed to have looted hundreds of millions of dollars from Nigeria during his rule from 1993 until his death in 1998. By ISSOUF SANOGO (AFP/File)

Nigeria is set to receive around $308 million seized from former military dictator Sani Abacha under a deal backed by the United States and the island of Jersey, US prosecutors said Monday.

The sum is the latest to be recovered from the accounts of Abacha, an army officer who ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998 aged 54, which sparked an ongoing search for hundreds of millions of dollars he stole and hid abroad.

The repatriation of the money from Jersey, in the English Channel off the coast of northern France, follows a 2014 US court ruling authorizing the seizure of $500 million of cash laundered by Abacha in accounts worldwide, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

The $308 million recovered represents "corrupt monies laundered during and after the military regime of General Abacha" together with his son and a number of associates via US financial institutions and the purchase of bonds, the Justice Department said.

After several court challenges to the 2014 ruling, the government of Jersey seized the $308 million located on the island.

"General Abacha and his cronies robbed Nigerians of vast public resources and abused the US and international financial systems to launder their criminal proceeds," Brian Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's criminal division, said in a statement.

"Today's landmark agreement returns to the people of Nigeria hundreds of millions of the embezzled monies through a lawful process that ensures transparency and accountability."

The agreement includes provisions to ensure "transparency and accountability," the Justice Department said, and after the US and Jersey transfer the money to Nigeria it is set to be spent on three major road projects across the country which has long struggled with waste and fraud in infrastructure projects.

In April 2018, Nigeria announced that it had received more than $300 million from Switzerland as part of money seized from the family of Abacha.

Those funds went to pay part of the bill of a government welfare scheme targeted at the country's poor.

The Justice Department is also seeking to recover other sums linked to Abacha, including $30 million in Britain, $144 million in France and $177 million located in trusts that name Abacha's associates and relatives as beneficiaries, according to the statement.

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