Following a deal signed between the Swiss government and the World Bank, Switzerland is to return approximately $321 million in seized assets to Nigeria, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The money was taken from the family of former Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha who was accused by corruption watchdog Transparency International of stealing up to $5 billion in public funds during his five years in power in the oil-rich country from 1993 until his death in 1998.
A deal was reached between Nigeria and the Abacha family in 2014 for the funds, which had been frozen, to be returned to the country in exchange for a complaint against Abacha’s son Abba being dropped.
The son had been charged by a Swiss court with money-laundering, fraud and forgery in April 2005, after being extradited from Germany. “In accordance with policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly $321m for the benefit of the Nigerian people", the Swiss government said. “The project will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population. The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption,” it added.
Abba Abacha was incarcerated for over 500 days and in 2006 Luxembourg ordered the funds held by him to be frozen.
Nigeria, Switzerland and the World Bank have reached agreement that the funds will be returned through a project supported and overseen by the World Bank and aimed at strengthening social security for Nigeria’s poor.
Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, signed the MOU with Swiss authorities on Monday in Zurich. Malami expressed gratitude for the international support Nigeria was getting in the fight against corruption.
Global collaboration, he said, was critical to the success of the fight. He said: “We will continue to work to deepen mechanisms not just for asset recovery, but for preventing corruption in the first place.”
Malami explained that Nigeria was one of the four countries being prioritized for Asset Recovery assistance at this maiden edition of the Global Forum on Assets Recovery holding in the US.
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