Thursday, March 6, 2014

US Freezes $458m Stolen by Sani Abacha


The United
States said Wednesday it had
ordered a freeze on $458 million
in assets stolen by former
Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha
and his accomplices and hidden
in European accounts.

The Justice Department said the
corruption proceeds — stashed
away in bank accounts in Britain,
France and Jersey — were frozen
at Washington's request with the
help of local authorities.

Abacha died in office in 1998,
but his surviving relatives still
include some of the richest and
most influential figures in Africa's
most populous nation.
According to a civil forfeiture
complaint unsealed in the US
District Court in Washington, the
department wants the recover
more than $550 million in
connection with the action.

"This is the largest civil forfeiture
action to recover the proceeds of
foreign official corruption ever
brought by the department," said
Mythili Raman, acting assistant
attorney general.

"General Abacha was one of the
most notorious kleptocrats in
memory, who embezzled billions
from the people of Nigeria while
millions lived in poverty," she
The Justice Department said the
assets frozen — along with
additional assets named in the
complaint — represent the
"proceeds of corruption" during
and after the military regime of
Abacha, who became president
of Nigeria through a military
coup on November 17, 1993 and
held that office until his death on
June 8, 1998.

The complaint alleges that
Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani
Abacha, their associate Abubakar
Atiku Bagudu and others
"embezzled, misappropriated
and extorted billions from the
government of Nigeria and
others, then laundered their
criminal proceeds through the
purchase of bonds backed by the
United States using US financial

Raman said that the action sends
a "clear message" that the United
States is "determined and
equipped to confiscate the ill-
gotten riches of corrupt leaders
who drain the resources of their
- Return funds 'where
appropriate' -
The US government's Kleptocracy
Asset Recovery Initiative "where
appropriate" provides for the
return of stolen proceeds "to
benefit the people harmed by
these acts of corruption and
abuse of office."
It did not specify what action
would be taken with regard to
the Abacha case.
The funds frozen include
approximately $313 million in
two bank accounts in the
Bailiwick of Jersey and $145
million in two bank accounts in
France, the department said.

Four investment portfolios and
three bank accounts in Britain
were frozed, with an estimated
value of at least $100 million but
the exact amounts in the
accounts have not yet been
determined, it said.

The Justice Department said that
on February 25 and 26,
authorities in Jersey, France and
Britain complied with the US
action to freeze the assets.
The complaint also seeks to
freeze five corporate entities
registered in the British Virgin

According to the complaint,
Abacha and others systematically
embezzled billions of dollars in
public funds from Nigeria's
central bank on the false
pretense that the funds were
necessary for national security.

They withdrew the funds in cash
and then moved the money
overseas through US financial
Abacha and his finance minister,
Anthony Ani, also allegedly
caused the Nigerian government
to buy Nigerian government
bonds at vastly inflated prices
from a company controlled by
Bagudu and Mohammed Abacha.

That operation created an an
illegal windfall of more than $282
In addition, Abacha and his co-
conspirators allegedly extorted
more than $11 million from a
French civil engineering
company, Dumez, and its
Nigerian affiliate in connection
with payments on government

Funds involved in each of these
schemes were laundered
through the United States in nine
financial institutions, the
complaint alleged.

The financial institutions involved
include Citibank, Chase
Manhattan Bank and Morgan
Guaranty Trust Company, now
JPMorgan Chase, and New York-
based units of Britain's Barclays
Bank and Germany's

Reference: Vanguard

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