This Day (Lagos)

6 March 2014

Nigeria: U.S. Freezes Abacha Loot

The United States Department of Justice has frozen over $458 million stolen by former Military Ruler, the late General Sani Abacha and his accomplices. Making the announcement in Washington, the Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mythili Raman of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge, Valerie Parlave of the FBI's Washington Field Office also disclosed that the civil forfeiture complaint also seeks to recover over $550 million.

The complaint was unsealed Wednesday at the United States District Court in the District of Columbia, in what is described as the largest kleptocracy forfeiture action brought in the department's history. According to a release made available to THISDAY, Thursday, by the US Embassy in Abuja, the restraint of funds includes approximately $313 million in two bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey and $145 million in two bank accounts in France. "On Feb. 25 and 26, 2014, U.S. arrest warrants for the assets were enforced in Jersey and France though mutual legal assistance requests and in the United Kingdom through litigation brought pursuant to the U.K. Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act.

The complaint also seeks to forfeit five corporate entities registered in the British Virgin Islands." "In addition, four investment portfolios and three bank accounts in the United Kingdom with an expected value of at least $100 million have also been restrained, but the exact amounts in the accounts will be determined at a later date," it read. Raman disclosed that through the US Kleptocracy Initiative, assets of foreign leaders who steal public funds are being seized adding that the US has sent a clear message that it is determined and equipped to confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt leaders who drain the resources of their countries. "We will not let the U.S. banking system be a tool for dictators to hide their criminal proceeds.

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