Sunday, September 11, 2011

FG recovers N5.6bn Abacha loot

The Federal Government has recovered £22.5m (N5.6bn) of funds embezzled through Jersey bank accounts in the coast of Normandy, France, during the regime of the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, was said to have led a delegation to the Island last month to negotiate the release of the funds, which were the proceeds of corrupt vehicle deals between Abacha and Raj Arjandas Bhojwani, an Indian businessman.

According to the Jersey Evening Post, the cash was confiscated from Bhojwani, who is serving a six-year jail sentence since 2010, for laundering $43.9m through his bank accounts in the Jersey branch of the Bank of India.

Bhojwani was ordered by Jersey’s Royal Court to repay £26.5m (N6.6bn) to Nigeria, as part of the sentence, after his jail term was shortened from eight years.

A statement released by the Royal Court said it represented the end of a long investigation into serious money laundering in Jersey.

Attorney General Timothy Le Cocq, said, “This is not the first time the attorney general has brought a successful prosecution for money laundering to an end and we hope that it will send out a clear message that Jersey will deal very seriously with such offences.”

The presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, confirmed the report. He said, “Yes, I confirm it. The report is true. The money that was repatriated from Jersey is £22.5m.

“The FG through the collaboration between the Attorney General and the authorities in Jersey, recovered it.

“The money has been kept in the special account that is meant for such funds and in due time, they shall be accounted for.”

In June 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, reportedly went to Jersey to thank the Island authorities for their investigations into allegations of money laundering by Nigerian officials, and for the return of £73.25m to Nigeria in previously uncovered looted cash.

In February this year, Adoke told the Senate that about $1bn looted by Abacha had been recovered by the Federal Government.

The minister also said the sum of $1.4bn that was looted by some former presidents, including Abacha, was trapped in foreign accounts.

The Federal Government had in 2000 initiated a global campaign to recover the stolen funds hidden in foreign accounts. This led to Switzerland returning the first instalment of $64m of an estimated $600m hidden in the country during Abacha’s five-year rule.

Accounts in Britain and Luxembourg were investigated, while the FG asked Liechtenstein authorities for help in recovering part of the £3bn embezzled by Abacha.

In 2002, Abacha’s family agreed to return $1.2 bn that was taken from the central bank due to an out-of-court arrangement that allowed the family keep $100m, which the Swiss Federal Office of Justice described as funds ‘’acquired prior to Abacha’s term in office and which, according to Nigerian authorities, demonstrably do not derive from criminal acts.’’

The settlement also required the Nigerian government to drop some criminal charges against Abacha’s son, Muhammad Sani Abacha, and an associate, Bagudu Abubakar. 

Source: Punch

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