March 16, 2016

ABACHA LOOT: Switzerland returns $723m to Nigeria in 10 years

ABACHA LOOT: Switzerland returns $723m to Nigeria in 10 years

Late Sani Abacha

LAGOS—The Swiss government has confirmed that it had so far returned $723 million (about N142.43 billion) of stolen funds seized from the family of the late former head of state, Sani Abacha, to the Nigerian government over the last 10 years.

The amount excludes $321million (about N63.24 billion) which the Swiss authorities recently said it was planning to repatriate to Nigeria.

Late Sani Abacha

Late Sani Abacha

March 8 agreement
These details are contained in the agreement signed on March 8, 2016, in Abuja by representatives of the Swiss Federal Council and the Nigerian government.

The agreement, titled “Letter of Intent on the restitution of illegally-acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland,” was signed by Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Swiss Head of Foreign Affairs Department, Didier Burkhalter.

The document revealed that $321 million acquired illicitly by the Abacha family, was initially deposited in Luxemburg before being confiscated by the Swiss Republic Judiciary and Canton of Geneva following a December 11, 2014 forfeiture order.

The agreement said funds to be returned to Nigeria would contribute to the implementation of social programmes for the benefit of the Nigerian people in “an efficient and accountable way, guaranteed by a monitoring by World Bank.”

Acknowledging the cooperation of Switzerland and Nigeria as an excellent opportunity to fight against corruption at domestic and international levels, the signatories to the agreement recalled the long partnership by their two countries in asset recovery, based on the principles of national interest, trust and mutual respect.

Considering Chapter V of the UN Convention against corruption, which is the international legal framework for asset recovery, the signatories also drew attention to Article 51 of the document that states afford each other measures of cooperation and assistance.

Process of repatriation
The agreement also emphasized the need for the process of repatriation of the stolen funds to be undertaken, based on international best practices of transparency and accountability in a manner that satisfied the scrutiny of civil society and the international community.

The signatories affirmed, among others, their intention to maintain a fruitful cooperation based on trust and respect in order to enable transparent and efficient use of the funds for the benefits of the Nigerian people.

Funds to be monitored by the World Bank
They also agreed to ensure that the deployment of the funds was monitored by the World Bank in line with separate forfeiture orders issued by the Swiss Public Prosecutor and the Canton of Geneva on December 11, 2014.

The two countries pledged to maintain regular exchanges and constructive engagements towards the conclusion of the processes necessary for the final return of the looted funds to Nigeria, adding that the letter of intent, which did not impose any legally binding obligation, would continue to provide the basis for their cooperation.

“The implementation of the present letter of Intent between the Signatories (Swiss and Nigerian governments) is guided by the principle of ethics, mutual respect and cooperation,” the agreement stated.