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Falana: US, Switzerland don’t want to return Abacha loot to Nigeria

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the governments of the United States and Switzerland are frustrating the return of the looted funds stashed in their countries by late Sani Abacha, a former military ruler.

Falana said this in a piece entitled ‘The immoral and illegal frustration of the repatriation of the remaining Abacha loot by the governments of United States and Switzerland’.

“Apart from describing Nigeria as ‘fantastically corrupt’, Mr. David Cameron did not accede to the request of President Buhari to recover and repatriate the looted wealth of Nigeria, which has been located in the United Kingdom,” Falana said.

“In spite of several assurances, the United States Government has continued to frustrate the legal proceedings filed by Nigeria in Jersey, United Kingdom, for the recovery and repatriation of the remaining Abacha loot.

“On its own part the Swiss Government has imposed a conditionality before repatriating the sum of $321 million in its custody to Nigeria.‎”

According to the former president of the West African Bar Association (WABA), court processes initiated by the Nigerian government in US courts have been objected to by the American government.

“The Federal Republic of Nigeria had adopted various routes and strategies to freeze, recover and repatriate to Nigeria the proceeds of corruption amassed by a former military ruler, the late General Sani Abacha and his associates.

“In particular, legal proceedings have been filed in many courts, including a criminal complaint in Switzerland and requests for mutual legal assistance to various European nations. Others include claims in England (both in the Commercial Court and the Chancery Division) directly against inter alias Mohammed Sani Abacha (“Abacha”) and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (“Bagudu”), together with companies associated with them, including Doraville Property Corporation (“Doraville”).

“I understand that it is suggested by the USA that the FRN is estopped from bringing proceedings against Doraville in Jersey to recover the proceeds of the fraud, because the FRN made the MLA Request, and because the FRN assisted in facilitating the service of the US proceedings upon Mohammed Sani Abacha and Bagudu.

“I do not understand this suggestion. As I have indicated above, the whole point of the MLA Request was to secure the recovery of monies for the FRN. It appears that the USA now however does not intend to abide by the spirit of the request, and instead intends itself to apply any monies recovered by it as it alone sees fit. In the absence of a common understanding between the FRN and the USA as to what should happen to the monies recovered in the Doraville proceedings, no estoppel can exist.

“The FRN is bringing proceedings in Jersey against Doraville to establish the FRN’s status as the party which has been defrauded of these monies, and therefore the party with a paramount proprietary interest in them.  There is nothing artificial or underhand about these proceedings.  What the FRN is seeking to achieve is establish as clearly as possible its own interest in these monies. It is the frivolous objection of the USA which has prevented the Court from ordering the repatriation of the fund to Nigeria.”

Falana urged President Barack Obama to ensure that the frivolous objections filed in the recovery proceedings in the High Court in Jersey by the US are withdrawn before the end of his term of office on January 20, 2017.

He also implored the the Government of Switzerland to repatriate the sum of $321 million of the Abacha loot to Nigeria without any further delay.

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