WASHINGTON, USA – The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has transferred over $20.6 million to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Nigeria) in accordance with an August 23 agreement between the governments to repatriate assets the United States forfeited that were traceable to the kleptocracy of former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators.
This repatriation brings the total amount forfeited and returned by the United States in this case to approximately $332.4 million.
In 2014, a judgment was entered in the District of Columbia ordering the forfeiture of approximately $500 million located in accounts around the world, as the result of a civil forfeiture complaint for more than $625 million traceable to money laundering involving the proceeds of General Abacha’s corruption. In 2020, the department repatriated over $311.7 million of the forfeited assets that had been located in the Bailiwick of Jersey. Last year, the UK government enforced the US judgment against the additional over $20.6 million.
The forfeited assets represent corrupt monies laundered during and after the military regime of General Abacha, who became head of state of Nigeria through a military coup on November 17, 1993, and held that position until his death on June 8, 1998. The complaint filed in this case alleges that General Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and others embezzled, misappropriated, and extorted billions of dollars from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through US financial institutions and transactions in the United States.
The United Kingdom’s cooperation in the investigation, restraint, and enforcement of the US judgement, along with the valuable contributions of Nigeria and other law enforcement partners around the world, including the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, as well as those of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, have been instrumental to the recovery of these funds.
Under the agreement signed in August, the United States agreed to transfer 100 percent of the net forfeited assets to Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects in Nigeria that were previously authorized by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian legislature. The $20,637,622.27 mark is a slight reduction from the $23 million announced in August due primarily to exchange rate fluctuations between British pounds sterling and US dollars. The funds governed by this agreement will help finance the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kano road – investments that will benefit the citizens of each of these important regions in Nigeria.
The agreement includes key measures to ensure transparency and accountability, including administration of the funds and projects by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), financial review by an independent auditor, and monitoring by an independent civil society organization with expertise in engineering and other areas. The agreement also precludes the expenditure of funds to benefit alleged perpetrators of the corruption or to pay contingency fees for lawyers. The agreement reflects the sound principles for ensuring transparency and accountability adopted at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in December 2017 in Washington, DC, which the United States and United Kingdom hosted with support from the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative of the World Bank and United Nations office on drugs and crime.
The department appreciates the extensive assistance provided by the governments of the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Jersey, and France in this investigation.
This case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section working in partnership with the FBI. Through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies seek to safeguard the US financial system from criminal money laundering and to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption. Where appropriate and possible, the department endeavours to use recovered corruption proceeds to benefit the people harmed by acts of corruption and abuse of public trust.