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Nigeria, US sign agreement to repatriate $308m Abacha Loot

Nigeria, US sign agreement to repatriate $308m Abacha Loot
February 04
13:50 2020

Nigeria has signed an agreement with the governments of the Island of Jersey and the United States for the repatriation of over $308 million looted by Sani Abacha, former head of state.

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The sum was recovered and frozen in 2013 but the repatriation process was stalled, following a lawsuit filed by the Abachas. 

The agreement was signed on Monday by Mark Temple, the solicitor-general and attorney-general designate of Jersey on behalf of Jersey, Brian Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney on behalf of the United States, and Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), on Nigeria’s behalf. 

TheCable in January reported that the parties were set to sign the agreement.

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“This Agreement represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by law officers in Jersey, the United States and Nigeria. The return of the assets to Nigeria had been delayed by a number of hard-fought challenges by third parties which were defeated in the courts in Jersey and the United States,” Temple said. 

He said the agreement establishes a framework based on fruitful cooperation, trust and respect so that the forfeited funds can be repatriated to benefit the people of Nigeria from whom they had been taken.

Temple said the agreement is a significant achievement that demonstrates his country’s commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.

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The Island of Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, is self-governed and has its own financial, legal systems and courts of law.

Ian Gorst, Jersey’s minister for external relations, said Jersey’s authorities had done everything within their power to investigate the loot since the country became aware of the money laundered by Abacha.

“As a leading international finance centre with an effective and robust regulatory regime, Jersey has a responsibility to firmly address any instances of alleged money laundering and corruption,” he said.

In November 2013, the United States filed a civil forfeiture action alleging that approximately $625 million located in Jersey, France, and the United Kingdom was traceable to money laundering activity in the country involving Abacha and his associates.

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Commenting on the agreement, Benczkowski, who represented the US, said it is a major achievement, and that “it also stands as a clear statement of our commitment to safeguard the United States from those who seek to launder the proceeds of corruption through the abuse of our financial system”.

On his part, Malami said the agreement is a major victory for Nigeria and other African countries.

“Without the commitment of the three parties to the Agreement (Nigeria, Jersey and the United States) and that of the legal experts and attorneys representing Nigeria, it would have been impossible to achieve the success recorded today,” he said.

“As you are aware, the government of Nigeria has committed that the assets will support and assist in expediting the construction of the three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – namely Lagos – Ibadan expressway, Abuja – Kano express way and the second Niger bridge.”

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The AGF asked civil society organisations and Nigerians to be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the key infrastructure projects that would enhance road transportation in Nigeria.

There was controversy over the $321 million earlier repatriated from Switzerland.

Malami had engaged Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo, Nigerian lawyers, for the recovery of the sum. But Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer who had been on the recovery job since 2000, told TheCable in a series of interviews that hiring the new lawyers was needless because he had already completed the task.

Despite an outcry, the Nigerian lawyers were paid $15 million by the federal government.

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