Switzerland to return millions in stolen funds to Nigeria

Nigeria seals deal with Switzerland to return $321m Abacha loot

The Swiss government has announced that it will return $320m of the money allegedly stolen by Nigeria's late military ruler Sani Abacha. The $321 million transfer is the last installment of the "Abacha loot" in Switzerland.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Publicity, Salihu Othman Isah, from the United States of America said the signing on December 4, 2017 was in consonance with Switzerland's policy of returning illegally acquired assets.

In March 2016, Switzerland and Nigeria signed an agreement to redirect the stolen money back to Nigerians. The core of StAR's work lies in country engagements that aim at building the capacity of the various stakeholders engaged in asset recovery and facilitating global cooperation on asset recovery cases.

The deal was signed on behalf of Nigeria by Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, in Washington DC, US, on Monday afternoon at the headquarters of the World Bank Group.

"The GFAR momentum has provided an enabling environment for genuine collective action towards returning stolen assets and the participation of civil society in the monitoring framework is another safeguard to ensure transparency and accountability in the process", said Reverend David Ugolor, executive director of the Benin City-based Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

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These funds being returned to Nigeria - initially frozen in Luxembourg - were confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor's office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December 2014. However, Nigeria's current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is the first to be successful, having vowed to recover what he called "mind-boggling sums of money stolen over decades" when he took office in 2015.

Switzerland did not say precisely when the money will be released.

When the agreement was announced this week, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said that fighting corruption is "one of Switzerland's priorities".

The son had been charged by a Swiss court with money-laundering, fraud and forgery in April 2005, after being extradited from Germany.

Now Switzerland, Nigeria and the World Bank have agreed the funds will be repatriated through a project supported and overseen by the World Bank, the Swiss government said.

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