Nigeria: U.S.$267 Million Abacha Loot Recovered From British Virgin Islands Firm

Sani Abacha (file photo)

More than $267 million traced to the family of late Nigerian despot General Sani Abacha has been seized from a British Virgin Islands firm and paid into government coffers in Jersey.

The money was a part of more than $300 million stash the Jersey government said on its website was "laundered through the US banking system by people including President Abacha's son Mohammed" during the military regime of General Sani Abacha.

"On Friday 31 May 2019 US$267,751,992.02 was paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund," Jersey government said.

"This fund is managed by the Minister for Treasury and Resources in accordance with the Civil Asset Recovery (International Co-operation) (Jersey) Law 2007, from assets that were previously held by Doraville Properties Corporation."

A 'kleptocracy' initiative launched by the United States Justice Department under Barack Obama initiative in 2014 collected a $500 million once held by the former Nigerian dictator and his cronies.

The return of the money in the Civil Asset Recovery Fund to Nigeria, the Jersey government said, will be the subject of an asset sharing agreement, to be negotiated between the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States of America and the Government of Jersey.

Military ruler Abacha, in power from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria's central bank in what the United States has called "brazen acts of kleptocracy".

The $267 has been a subject of a legal tussle between Doraville and the US authorities.

In 2014, at the request of the US Authorities, the Attorney General applied for, and the Royal Court granted, a restraining order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville, a British Virgin Island company, to preserve the money until a final civil asset recovery order could be registered in the Royal Court.

Thereafter, Doraville applied to the Royal Court for the restraint order to be discharged. The Royal Court turned the application and upheld the restraining order in July 2016.

Unsatisfied with the ruling of the Royal Court, Doraville took the case to Jersey's Court of Appeal. It also lost the appeal in February 2017.

Following the decision of Jersey's Court of Appeal, Doraville made an application to appeal the restraint order to the Privy Council, Jersey's ultimate appellate court.

In February 2018 the Privy Council announced its rejection of this final legal challenge. Further monies held by Doraville are likely to be realised and paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund in the future.

"In restraining the funds at the request of the United States of America, through whose banking system the funds were laundered before arriving here, and in achieving the payment of the bulk of the funds into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund, Jersey has once again demonstrated its commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering," Jersey's attorney general Robert MacRae said.

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