The Federal Government on Wednesday said that the objective of the forfeiture proceedings by the United States Department of Justice was to guarantee that the $500m looted by former military head of state, General Sani Abacha and his associates, were repatriated to Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN, who stated this in a statement in Abuja said that the government would ensure the repatriation of the money to Nigeria.
He stated, “As the central authority for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, my office has received requests for Mutual Legal Assistance for the Central Authority of the United States and we are cooperating with the United States in line with the obligations we assumed under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
“The overall objective of these efforts is to ensure that Nigeria as the victim state is able to have the forfeited assets (money) repatriated to Nigeria to fund development projects for the benefit of the people in accordance with the dictates of Chapter IV of the United Nations Convention against corruption. Let me assure you that Nigeria as State Party to UNCAC will do all that is required to realise this objective.”
The US government had, a few days ago, formally written the Federal Government for assistance to serve forfeiture notice on Abacha’s son, Mohammed; and an associate of the late dictator, Atiku Bagudu.
The defendants were given up till March 25, 2014 to file an application before the US District Court for Columbia to either set aside the forfeiture order or vary it
Among others, the defendants forfeited over $550m and £95,910m in 10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to the Abachas in France, the Britain, British Virgin Island and the United States, under the US Kleptomaniac Asset Recovery
Adoke, in the statement, said, “The Federal Government of Nigeria welcomes the forfeiture proceedings initiated by the United States Department of Justice against the property related to the corrupt conduct of late General Sani Abacha, the former head of state of Nigeria, and His Associates and the subsequent laundering of corruption proceeds.
“The proceedings will make it possible for the defendants to forfeit over $550million and £95,910 in 10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to the Abachas in France, the Britain, British Virgin Islands and the United States.”
The minister said that the Federal Government applauded the American government’s move to recover the proceeds of corruption for the benefit of the people of Nigeria.
The US government had on March 5, 2014 ordered a freeze of assets stolen by the former dictator and his accomplices.
According to a civil forfeiture complaint unsealed in the US District Court in Washington, the department wants to recover more than $550m in connection with the action.
“This is the largest civil forfeiture action to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption ever brought by the department,” said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general
The US Justice Department had said the frozen assets, along with additional assets named in the complaint, represented the “proceeds of corruption” during and after the military regime of Abacha, who became Head of State through a military coup on November 17, 1993 and held that office until his death on June 8, 1998.
The complaint had alleged that Abacha; his associate, Bagudu, and others “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through the purchase of bonds backed by the United States using US financial institutions.”