Thursday, August 7, 2014

U.S takes control of $480 million stolen by Abacha

The United States has taken control of more
than $480 million looted by former Nigerian dictator Sani
Abacha and his associates after a court ruling, the Justice
Department said on Thursday.
The money stolen during Abacha's 1993-1998 de facto
presidency of the oil-rich African nation and stashed in
banks around the world will be returned to the Nigerian
government, the department said in a statement.
"Rather than serve his county, General Abacha used his
public office in Nigeria to loot millions of dollars, engaging
in brazen acts of kleptocracy," Assistant Attorney General
Leslie Caldwell said in the statement.
U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington ordered on
Wednesday that the funds, frozen by the Justice
Department in March, be forfeited to U.S. control.
The judgment includes about $303 million in two bank
accounts in the British offshore center of Jersey and $144
million in two bank accounts in France. Three accounts in
the United Kingdom and Ireland hold at least $27 million,
the statement said.
Claims to another $148 million in four investment
portfolios in the United Kingdom are pending.
Abacha, who took took power in a coup, died in 1998.
Nigeria has been fighting for years to recover his money,
but companies linked to the Abacha family have gone to
court to prevent repatriation.
Between $3 billion and $5 billion of public money was
looted during Abacha's regime, according to Transparency
International.
The Justice Department suit filed in November 2013 saying
that Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their
associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and others embezzled,
misappropriated and extorted money from the Nigerian
government.
They laundered funds by buying bonds backed by the
United States using U.S. financial institutions, prosecutors
said.
The assets were held in banks that included Deutsche
Bank AG , HSBC Holdings Plc and Banque SBA, according
to the lawsuit.
In June, after a 16-year legal battle, Nigeria recovered from
Liechtenstein $228 million stolen by Abacha and his
associates.
As of last year, Nigeria had recovered about $1.3 billion of
Abacha's money from various European jurisdictions.

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