$23m Abacha Loot Recovered In The UK

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has recovered $23,439,724.98 that was smuggled out of Nigeria by associates and family members of former Nigerian Head of State, General Sani Abacha, in the 1990s.

Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death aged 54, on June 8, 1998.

The NCA, a British law enforcement agency, is the UK’s principal institution in the fight against organised crime, human, weapon and drug trafficking, cybercrime as well as cross-border economic crime.

The money was part of a larger pool of funds identified by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) as having been plundered by Abacha and his accomplices, it reported on its website on Thursday.

The NCA said it conducted nearly seven years of litigation and international negotiations on behalf of the DOJ to secure the recovery order and to enforce the US forfeiture order relating to the recovered funds.

The money has now been transferred to the British Home Office for transmission to the US Department of Justice, it said.

“The NCA is determined to ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime,” Billy Beattie, Asset Denial Senior Manager at the NCA said in a statement.

According to him, the NCA case is still underway, and the DOJ has found further funds plundered by Abacha and his associates.

US$3 to US$5 looted in 4 years

According to Transparency International, the Abacha regime, dubbed the most corrupt in the country’s history, is believed to have stashed illicit funds in foreign bank accounts totaling between $3 and $5 billion in public funds, though the total amount stolen is still difficult to calculate.

Millions of dollars have continued to be recovered 22 years after Abacha’s death, with more than $2.4 billion returned, according to Swiss lawyer Enrico Monfrini, who was commissioned by Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to recover the loot.

How was the money stolen

Monfrini told the BBC in 2021 that the methods used to amass such vast sums were particularly audacious.

He claimed Abacha would instruct an adviser to make a request for money for an unspecified security issue. He then signed off on the request, which the adviser would then take to the central bank, which would distribute the funds, often in cash.

The adviser would then take the majority of the funds to Abacha’s residence.

Some were even taken in dollar bills “by the truckload”, according to Mr Monfrini.

Other methods included awarding state contracts to friends at exorbitant prices and pocketing the difference, as well as demanding that foreign companies pay huge kickbacks to operate in the country.

RadioNig/Cynthia Akere

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