US freezes $458m hidden by Nigerian ex-leader

Fortune of Sani Abacha earned through corruption and kept in bank accounts around the world, US officials say.

    US authorities said Sani Abacha's corruption proceeds were stashed away in Britain, France and Jersey [AFP]
    US authorities said Sani Abacha's corruption proceeds were stashed away in Britain, France and Jersey [AFP]

    The United States has frozen more than $458m that former Nigerian leader Sani Abacha and his conspirators obtained through corruption and hid in bank accounts around the world, the US Justice Department said.

    About $313m was restrained in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey and $145 million was restrained in bank accounts in France, the department said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The department said it was pursuing additional holdings in the United Kingdom with an expected value of at least $100m, but that the exact amount would be determined later.

    Abacha died in 1998 at age 54. Nigeria has for years been fighting to recover his money, but companies linked to the Abacha family have gone to court to prevent repatriation.

    The former military dictator looted between $3bn and $5bn of public money during his five-year rule of Africa's top oil producer from 1993 to 1998, according to Transparency International.

    Overseas bank accounts

    In November, the US Justice Department filed a lawsuit seeking the recovery of money that had been identified in overseas bank accounts.

    A judge in Washington, DC, unsealed the lawsuit on Wednesday.

    Named with Abacha as conspirators in the suit were his son Mohammed Sani Abacha and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, whom the suit called their associate.

    They laundered money through the purchase of bonds backed by the United States using US financial institutions, according to prosecutors.

    Last month, US arrest warrants for the assets were enforced in France as well as in the Bailiwick of Jersey off the coast of Normandy, through mutual legal assistance requests and in the United Kingdom through litigation, the Justice Department said.

    The assets were held in banks including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Banque SBA, according to the lawsuit.

    The lawsuit also seeks the forfeiture of five corporate entities registered in the British Virgin Islands.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?