US, Switzerland Sign Agreement to Return $621m Abacha, Alamieyeisegha Loots

  •  US takes custody of money, including parts stashed in the UK, France, Jersey

By Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday at the Chatham House, London, disclosed that he had signed two agreements, on behalf of the federal government, with Switzerland and the United States of America, respectively, for the return of $621 million looted funds.  

The funds were said to have been looted by former head of state, late Sani General Abacha and the former Bayelsa State Governor, late Diepreye Alamieyeisegha.

 Malami said: “Just four days ago, in Washington DC, I signed two agreements on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Switzerland and the United States of America, respectively, for the return of previously looted funds. The first Agreement with Switzerland will involve the return of $321 million traced to Nigeria’s former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, which has been the subject of intense diplomatic horse-trading and negotiations over the last two decades.

“The second agreement, with the United States of America, sets out the roadmap for the eventual return of sums in excess of $300m currently in the custody of the US Government following Forfeiture Orders by American courts and which relate to monies stashed away in the  United Kingdom ($1.6m and 21.7m Pounds), France ($145m) and Jersey ($299m) respectively, by certain interests including a former Governor of Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeisegha and the Abacha family, among others.

“We are happy to have concluded these agreements, as they help to reinforce the principle that the present administration in Nigeria will chase and recover every single penny rightfully belonging to the people of Nigeria no matter how long it takes.” 

The agreement is coming barely few days it signed a tripartite treaty with the US, Switzerland and the World Bank on the repatriation of about $321m said to have stolen by Abacha and starched in foreign countries. 

The AGF, who expressed joy over the agreements signed with the governments of the US and Switzerland, noted that the MoU would help to reinforce the commitment of the present administration to chasing and recovering every single penny rightfully belonging to the people of Nigeria, “No matter how long it takes”. 

Malami said he chose to draw attention to these agreements in order to demonstrate the core theme of his topic, which is that every campaign against corruption, oftentimes, involves both domestic and international dimensions and will therefore benefit from significant pressure from, and active collaboration, by international State and non-State partners, the media and civil society. 

“Given the reality of modern financial systems, money moves across borders, particularly from developing countries, practically at the speed of light and its tracking has therefore become a matter beyond domestic competences and good intentions”, the minister said. 

He said the Buhari administration, determined to tackle corruption frontally, passed new laws and amended existing ones in order to provide the necessary legal basis for their initiatives and make it easier for them to work with international partners.

“We are therefore currently pursuing legislative initiatives to pass the Proceeds of Crime Agency Bill, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Bill, as well as a Bill to create autonomy for the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency. While this legislative process has certainly slightly slowed down some of our initiatives, it is however necessary that the anti-corruption campaign must be waged on the basis of the Rule of Law”, he said.

The AGF stated that as part of efforts to encourage a citizen-centred approach to the fight against corruption, the Nigerian government introduced a Whistle-Blowers policy as a component of the anti-corruption war.

He said the programme, despite its initial challenges, had proven to be a huge success, resulting in several recoveries by the government, including the famous seizure of $43 million plus cash discovered in a flat in Lagos on 12th April, 2017.

“The government’s focus on the reform of the tax system, apart from raising more funds, is also based on the fact that citizens are more likely to monitor the use of their resources when they directly contribute to it, unlike the situation where oil revenues had frequently been mismanaged due to low accountability thresholds. A 9-month Tax and Assets Declaration Amnesty is currently in place under the Voluntary Assets and Incomes Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) in order to increase the tax net”, he said at the Chatham House.