with agency reports
05 December 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Switzerland has announced that around $321 million public funds looted by former Nigerian military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha will be returned to Nigeria.
The money, originally deposited in Luxembourg, was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 and in March last year, the two states signed an agreement on its repatriation.
“In accordance with the policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly $321 million for the benefit of the Nigerian people,” the Swiss government said in a statement.
Military ruler Abacha, in power from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria’s central bank in what the United States has called “brazen acts of kleptocracy.”
The Swiss statement said these funds were frozen in a legal procedure by Geneva’s public prosecutor against Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son.
It said the return of the funds would be supported and supervised by the World Bank, adding that the move should “strengthen social security for the poorest Nigerians”.
When the agreement was announced, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter had said the fight against corruption was “one of Switzerland’s priorities”.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has led a purge of corruption since taking office in 2015, vowing to recover what he said were “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over decades.
Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Swiss authorities for the return of $321 million on Monday in Zurich.
Malami expressed gratitude for the international support Nigeria was getting in the fight against corruption.
Global collaboration, he said, was critical to the success of the fight.
He said, “We will continue to work to deepen mechanisms not just for asset recovery, but for preventing corruption in the first place.”
Malami explained that Nigeria was one of the four countries being prioritized for Asset Recovery assistance at this maiden edition of the Global Forum on Assets Recovery holding in the US.
Fighting corruption through institution-building, entrenching safeguards and global collaboration would continue to be a priority for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, said late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, stole up to $5 billion of public money during the five years he ran the oil-rich country from 1993 until his death in 1998.
In 2014, Nigeria and the Abacha family reached an agreement for Nigeria to get back the funds, which had been frozen, in return for dropping a complaint against the former military ruler’s son, Abba Abacha.
The son was charged by a Swiss court with money laundering, fraud, and forgery in April 2005, after being extradited from Germany, and later spent 561 days in custody.
In 2006, Luxembourg ordered that funds held by the younger Abacha be frozen.
Now Switzerland, Nigeria and the World Bank have agreed the funds will be repatriated via a project supported and overseen by the World Bank, the Swiss Government said.
“The project will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population. The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption,” it added.