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$150m Abacha loot: Time for France, Nigeria to uphold assets recovery laws –  CISLAC, TI

According to CISLAC and TI, the return process falls within proceedings initiated in the United States where, in 2014, a court entered judgment forfeiting approximately US$500 million located in accounts around the world, including in France, Jersey, the U.K., among others, as the result of a civil forfeiture complaint the Department of Justice filed against more than $625 million traceable to money laundering involving the proceeds of Abacha’s corruption.

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In anticipation of the return of the $150 million looted by erstwhile Nigerian Head of State, Late Gen. Sani Abacha, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and Transparency International (TI), France chapter, have urged France and Nigeria to uphold assets recovery laws.

The return of $150 million from France to Nigeria was announced during the launch of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR), Action Series, according to a statement co-signed by the CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, and Sara Brimbeuf, TI’s Head of Illicit Financial Flows Program in France, made available to Persecondnews.

The CSOs urged the Nigerian government to be vigilant about misappropriation of funds.

According to CISLAC and TI, the return process falls within proceedings initiated in the United States where, in 2014, a court entered judgment forfeiting approximately US$500 million located in accounts around the world, including in France, Jersey, the U.K., among others, as the result of a civil forfeiture complaint the Department of Justice filed against more than $625 million traceable to money laundering involving the proceeds of Abacha’s corruption.

Persecondnews recalls that the Department of Justice, on May 4, 2020, announced that it had transferred $311,797,876.11 to the Nigerian government in accordance with a February 3, 2020, trilateral agreement among the governments of the United States, Nigeria and the Bailiwick of Jersey (Jersey) to repatriate assets traceable to the late Gen. Abacha that the U.S. forfeited.

The statement said: “On November 3rd, 2023, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and at the 10th Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), France announced the upcoming return to Nigeria of US$150 million looted by former Head of State Sani Abacha.

“The announcement of the upcoming return of US$150M from France to Nigeria that took place during the launch of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR), Action series, organised by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), to facilitate the communication and negotiation among origin and destination countries in connection with specific ongoing cases, raises several questions.

“When will the negotiations between France and Nigeria start? How will France and Nigeria choose the project or programs financed by the returned funds? Will civil society organisations be included in the return process? If so, how?

“It is important to note that while France has never returned any confiscated assets, it has recently established a legal framework for asset restitution that enshrines principles of transparency and accountability and provides clear guidelines on the various stages of the return process.

“Nigeria, on the contrary, has a longstanding asset return experience with more than $4 billion having been returned from different jurisdictions like Switzerland, the UK, the US, and Jersey, over the past three decades.

“While Nigeria has been commended for making efforts to repatriate stolen assets from abroad, the utilization of these assets has been a challenge due to the lack of transparency and accountability in the management and utilization of funds.

“These challenges gave rise to several calls by Nigerian and international state and non-state actors in Nigeria for a legal framework to ensure transparent and accountable management of recovered assets.”

“These advocacy efforts led to the adoption of the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022 which assigns roles and responsibilities to relevant institutions on recovery and management of proceeds of crime and gives a provision for civil society to monitor its implementation.”

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