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US, Nigeria sign agreement on Abacha loot return

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The Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America have entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate over US$308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria, Punch reports. 

This was contained in a press statement published on the website of US Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria on Tuesday.

The funds were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha.

In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington DC 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 General Abacha was Head of State.

This case is a result of extensive co-operation between the Jersey authorities, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with crucial assistance from other governments around the world.

At the time the case was filed as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2013, it was the largest U.S. kleptocracy forfeiture action ever commenced.

In 2014 the Attorney General of Jersey applied for, and was granted, a Property Restraint Order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville.

This was challenged in the Royal Court of Jersey and Court of Appeal, and an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council by Doraville was refused. France and the United Kingdom restrained additional funds at U.S. request.

General Abacha and his associates stole and laundered many hundreds of millions of dollars of public money during his military regime, doing vast harm to the futures of Nigerians.

The monies were laundered by his family, including his sons Ibrahim and Mohammed, and a number of close associates.

The laundering operation extended to the United States and European jurisdictions such as the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.

In 2018, Governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, United States of America and the Bailiwick of Jersey commenced the negotiation of the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition and management of the assets.

The tripartite agreement signed this week represents a major watershed in international cooperation in asset recovery and repatriation, and will provide benefit to people throughout Nigeria.

The projects on which the funds will be expended will be administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and independently audited.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria will establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress.

The Nigerian government, in consultation with the other Parties, will also engage Civil Society Organisations, who have expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight

Victor Umeh Victor Umeh

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