By Ahamefula Ogbu
United States Deputy Head of Mission, Maria Brewer has blamed cumbersome legal process and depth of investigations that have to be carried out to ensure equity and fairness to all parties for delays experienced in the repatriation of looted funds for developing countries, especially Nigeria.
She also listed “smartness” of looters and criminals who create all manner of hurdles and hide their loots in ways not too straight to deal with for the delays but assured that with legislations targeted at recovering such funds and the partnership of other bodies and countries, there would be no hiding place for looted funds.
On solution to the Niger Delta problem, she observed that nearly 20 years ago, the issue was on the front burner and had recently witnessed an upsurge. She regretted that there appeared no ready-made answer or solution but advocated dialogue and engagement to restore peace to the region.
Brewer who spoke exclusively to THISDAY in Lagos denied official complicity for the protection of looted funds, pointing out that the USA had passed some legislations which ensured return of looted funds even when they were not hosted by the US but for the funds just passing through their territory
According to her, contrary to the notion that the looted funds were in a tagged bag that could be transported back to their countries of origin, most of the funds had even been invested in properties and into some legitimate businesses while some beneficiaries had what they felt were legitimate claims to keeping their part of the funds.
“It is a very cumbersome legal process; I know it is not necessarily exciting to think about the entire legal process that that it takes to return money. This is not a safe with a big bag with a dollar tag Abacha loot sitting somewhere but is not because some of that money may have been turned into property. It has been laundered and turned into businesses, turned into goods so it is not just a simple matter of reaching into a safe and saying okay, here is the money back. It is in the hands of individuals some of who have legal claims that they came by it legally or again some have several layers removed and removing that cannot be done automatically, some legal process have to be followed as the rights of those individuals, their rights are respected as well.
“It is difficult and not exciting to think about, involves a lot of lawyers and a lot of companies and law enforcement to go through a lot of documents and I know they are doing that work as we speak to determine where those monies came from, how do we remove it and how do we answer the claims of individual holdings and determine if they came by it honestly
“It is an incredible amount of work and I know it has been going on for years and unfortunately it has to go on, into sometime into the future but our desire is true, we intend to do all we can to return those monies and most of those monies are not in the US.”