Nigeria asks U.S. to return $500 million Abacha loot to country

Former military Head of State, Sani Abacha

“General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled billions from the people of Nigeria while millions lived in poverty.”

Despite its inability to adequately explain how the more than $500 million Sani Abacha loot recovered from Swiss authorities was spent, the Federal Government has filed an application at a Washington DC District Court requesting that another $500 million (N75 billion) stolen by the late military dictator, recently frozen by the United States Department of Justice, be repatriated to the country.

In February, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the money recovered from Switzerland was used for rural development projects but failed to name specific projects the money was used for.

On March 6, 2014, the American Department of Justice announced the freezing of the asset of the late Abacha stashed in various accounts in the U.S. and around the world. The loot was described as the “largest kleptocracy forfeiture action” in the department’s history in a civil forfeiture action brought before the DC District court.

“General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled billions from the people of Nigeria while millions lived in poverty,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mythili Raman.

“This is the largest civil forfeiture action to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption ever brought by the department. Through our Kleptocracy Initiative, we are seizing the assets of foreign leaders who steal funds that properly belong to the citizens they serve. Today’s action sends a clear message: we are determined and equipped to confiscate the ill-gotten riches of corrupt leaders who drain the resources of their countries,” said Mr. Raman.

In the Asset Forfeiture action, the Federal Government through its counsel, Godson Nnaka and Jude Ezeala, asked the court to “enter a decree ordering the forfeiture of the defendant [Abacha] property to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

They also want the court to “grant an order of forfeiture for liquidation of all forfeited/seized assets/defendant property and conversion of all proceeds to liquid fluids denominated in the United States dollar.”

Further, the counsel asked the court to “enter an order directing the immediate return and transfer of the defendant property, in liquidated proceeds denominated in United States currency bank to Nigeria less Attorney fees, cost and expenses.”

Quoting the World Bank, the counsel argued that 70 per cent of Nigeria’s 170 million people are “extremely poor people.”

“For the most part of its history, Nigeria has been ruled by a string of brutal military dictators who oppressed the citizens, suppressed all forms of dissent or opposition and systematically institutionalised graft and corruption in the country.”

How the money was stolen

According to court documents, some of the money was stolen directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria through a fraudulent security vote perpetrated through letter requests from Mr. Abacha’s National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gwarzo, with the help of the late dictator’s son, Mohammed Abacha, and his close associate Atiku Bagudu.

Mr. Bagudu is currently a senator of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and represents Kebbi Central Senatorial District. Though currently standing trial over his involvement in the fraud, Mr Bagudu was recently appointed to head a probe panel into the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment scandal.

A document filed by the United States Department in the District and Bankruptcy Courts for the District of Columbia, quoted by the Nation Newspaper, gives a comprehensive detail of how the money was stolen from the CBN and the role of Union Bank and defunct Inland Bank in transferring the stolen funds to accounts operated by Mr. Abacha across the world:

“Abacha together with Mohammed Sani Abacha, Bagudu and others, systematically embezzled public funds worth billions of dollars from the CBN on the pretext that the funds were necessary for national security.

“After causing the CBN to release the funds, often in cash, Gen. Abacha and Bagudu then moved the funds overseas, including through US financial institutions (the Security Votes Fraud).

“Over 60 false security votes letters were addressed to and endorsed by Gen. Abacha, each of which resulted in the withdrawal of Nigeria’s public funds from the CBN.
“Subsequently, the funds were deposited into accounts controlled by, or used to purchase assets for the benefit of, Gen. Abacha, Bagudu or other members of the conspiracy.”
“The conspirators transported the proceeds of the Security Votes Fraud out of Nigeria to accounts in Europe that were under the conspirators’ private control, including the Rayville and Standard Alliance accounts at Banque SBA, the Eagle Alliance and Mecosta accounts at ANZ (London) and the Mecosta account at Standard Bank as described below.

“The CBN staff and other individuals known and unknown to the United States generally would deliver the currency stolen with the security votes letters to Gwarzo at his residence.

“Gwarzo and others acting at his discretion would repackage the currency in secure bags and then deliver it to Gen. Abacha at his residence in Abuja, Nigeria.

“Gen. Abacha or those acting at his direction, delivered more than $700 million of these funds to Mohammed Abacha in bags or boxes full of cash.

“Mohammed Abacha gave the cash he received to Bagudu, who later arranged for the money to be transferred to accounts controlled by Bagudu and Mohammed Abacha in foreign countries.

“Transfers included deposits into accounts in the name of defendants Mecosta, Doraville, Standard Alliance, and Rayville, as well as Eagle Alliance and Harbour Engineering.

“In order to move the money overseas, Bagudu deposited the cash proceeds of the Security Votes Fraud into at least one of two Nigerian commercial banks, Union Bank of Nigeria and/ or Inland Bank of Nigeria.”

“Bagudu and/or Mohammed Abacha then instructed Union Bank or Inland Bank to transfer the stolen funds to other accounts under Bagudu or Mohammed Abacha’s control, such as accounts in the name of Mecosta, Rayville and Eagle Alliance.

“Inland Bank or Union Bank made the necessary arrangements to transfer the money overseas. The funds were transferred from Union Bank or Inland Bank back to the CBN to an account held by Union Bank or Inland Bank at the CBN.

“The CBN then transferred the funds from the account of Union Bank or Inland Bank to their respective overseas domiciliary accounts held at banks in either London or New York.

“The specific London or New York account varied depending on which Nigerian commercial bank had been used in the first instance.

“Through these “cash swaps,” at least $137million was transported into and out of the United States, and into accounts held in the name of the defendant corporations.”

Debt buy-back scam

Mr. Abacha also devised a dubious debt buy-back scam to fleece the country of more than $282 million an affidavit filed by the Federal Government’s counsel shows.

“General Abacha in association with his son “Mohammed Abacha, Bagudu and others defrauded Nigeria of more than $282 million by causing the government of Nigeria to repurchase Nigeria’s par debt from one of his companies for more than double what Nigeria would have paid to repurchase the debt in open market. In this fraudulent flipping of Nigerian debt’s the Central Bank of Nigeria paid and was defrauded the following: (a) $141,253,333 paid or transferred to defendant property on or before April 15, 1997; (b) $141,253,333 paid or transferred to defendant property on or before April 22, 1997.”

The counsel, therefore, argued that: “from the foregoing, the conclusion is inescapable that Nigeria is the innocent owner of the funds laundered by defendant corporate entities and therefore entitled to the return of the funds and the interests generated there from.”

Ironically, the Federal Government recently honoured Mr. Abacha, posthumously, with an award for “Outstanding Promoter of Unity, Patriotism and National Development.”


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  • Ioseb Vissarionovich Dze Jugha

    They want it to be returned so they can loot it back

    • redeem

      Yes but was it Jonathan who collected the first Abacha loot from Switzerland? The money is not even in the USA-It was obasanjo-go and ask him-how he spent the money–that is the man who has been talking about corruption in Nigeria as if he is a saint–Obj is corruption pernsonified-let him tell us how he spent the money with his agents in APC-period

      • Ikechukwu_67

        But Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was OBj’s finance minister then. Maybe we could ask her….

        • redeem

          u said objs minister not jonathan

          • Wale

            You’re a very confused man/woman.

          • redeem

            she was the minster under obj at the time the money was released-by the Swiss authorities–are u now saying Jonathan should have asked her to account for the money-when-the said money was never handed over to Jonathan when she was appointed by him-and u say i am confused–yeye people –where did the money abacha stole come from the ground nut pyramids ati cocoa abi

          • Wale

            Now you’re even more confused.

      • Ioseb Vissarionovich Dze Jugha


    • Tunsj

      Well said!

  • redeem

    That is the late Abacha whom Buhari served with all his heart. Then Buhari went on to arrange with his boys in the army to assassinate Kudirat-while he was with abacha-it was the same buhari who ordered abacha to hang ken saro wiwa-and finally gave abacha a clean bill of health–he said abacha never stole a dime from Nigeria-now buhari wants to be president of Nigeria via the Yorubas in APC-A country without a sense of history-never makes progress-what a country-what a shame

    • Goodhead

      A country’s leadership that says Nigeria’s corruption is not too bad, but rather common stealing; a leadership that says Nigeria is not that poor because few of her citizens own private jets; a leadership that bestowed a post humous honour on Abacha; a leadership whose legal traps was reconfigured to allow Elephant iBORI to escape only to be caught elsewhere certainly is unfit to demand the return of such huge amount. May be until when the country shows signs of good leadership.

      • emmanuel

        Your brain is weak.

        If you call someone a thief, tje person is a thief.

        JonAthan was only trying to manage his national image like the USA and other country would do too.

        If the USA was clean, why did they allow Abacha loot stay until Nigeria make case.

        I know international money wiring so much and I have had to answer to the CIA querry on some legitimate inflow into the USA. They know of every huge funds that enters and refuse to talk especially when they know such funds are stolen and would be left there for their economy use.

        They know where all IBB stolen cash is in the USA and have kept quiet until Nigeria would talk.

        • Tunsj

          Thanks for your comment. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The US knows where all those stolen money are and it is good for their economy. The US only cares about their own interests.

      • redeem

        dont start something that u will soon run away from-Buharis men caught alhaji alhaji former CBN governor-with hundreds of thousands of foreign currencies at the MMA-he was released by Buhari and allowed to go-Fela also arrived from a tour of France at the same airport-he was arrested by APC Buhari-and sent to prison-only for buhari to confess that he asked the judges to send Fela to jail because he called him a thief-introduced draconian decree 4 to silence the press-Pa Ajasin was twice freed of all the corruption allegation buhari manufactured against his gwabment -yet buhari refused to allow him go home-Atiku has a house in the USA-the yankees did nothing about it–but sold that of alams-Ibori did not steal as much as the prince of thieves Sanusi ex CBN chief did-today he is history to APC

        • Ikechukwu_67

          Redeem you didn’t answer Goodhead. You just came out with diversions. Please pick what he said and “deliver the blows” to his accusations…. Which one be buhari ds, buhari dat for the matter? Goodhead did not even mention buhari. Please pick Goodhead up……

        • HAMZA

          was Alhaji Alhaji ever governor of CBN???

      • HAMZA

        …..and the new ‘definition’ is ‘stealing is not corruption’ and ‘corruption is not stealing’ What an grammar-arobatic semantica!!!

    • Garden-City Boy

      Awusa people are all liars, thieves and hypocrites. A thieving mullah will tell you he is not stealing……only acting in total submission to allah’s will, and is, therefore, nothing. That is why Buhari -an archetypal mullah-. tells you Abacha did not steal a dime and wants to be believed. In making that claim, his intention is to create diversionary cover for stealing. He conspired a rip-off with Abacha. Trillions was fraudulently designated “PTF”, passed on to Buhari ti skim off. That is not thieving… was an act in total submission to an allah.
      Only last week, the other wide-eyed isalamist named Is’haq Modibo Kawu was hyperventilating like a volcano, screaming blue murder over what he saw as “unprecedented” corruption in the present administration .From the way he went about it, you would think that, for this islamic ideologue, either Abacha never ever happened, or that he never heard the cliche -ABACHA LOOT in his life. You would even imagine that, i his judgment, is a high-ranking saint in heaven. Just forget all about these people called awusa.

      • nija pikin

        Jona has broken the world record when his frog eye amarya stole 20 Billion dollars for him, the American are not fools they know everything about Jonas corruption antics infact they know how many ogogoro he smoke every nite with abbati and co

        • Garden-City Boy

          Is that? Why then is awusa so worriedm since the money was stolen from Jona, not from awusa.

          • HAMZA

            Abi tha moni no bi Nigeria gettam again?? Wandapull!!!

        • HAMZA

          …..and they will be waiting for Nigerian state to demand for the money back and will be returned.

    • HAMZA

      You do not even know the implication of what you are trying to say. In a real democracy, Tinubu and Buhari would have more than enough of voters number to win any election in Nigeria.

      • emmanuel

        In 1975 or thereabout, buhari stole the Petroleum ministry funds of over $1.6 million. He was forced to return the money and he did return about $1,1 million or thereabout. The reat still hang on his neck to date(those who taught Nigerians how to steal government monies).

        In 2007, Nuhu Ribadu published details of Lagos State, Delta and Akwa Ibom State investment in Vimobile converted to personal account by the trio of Tinubu, Ibori and Attah and that he would prosecute them.

        Unfortunately for Ibori, the money is part of his assets frozen by the UK government for which he is in jail.

        Your saint – Tinubu jas ploughed his own into OandO and his is supposed to get all the votes? Nigerians knows better.

        IBB amd Dongoyaro and co knew that Buhari was a common thief who was trying to act an hypocrite so they got him out if the way.

        Tell us anoda stori!

  • Canada Boy

    A thief requesting for the returns of the loot of another thief, wonders shall never finish. Please US don’t return anything yet until this looter (who likes to refer to himself as “mere thief”) is kicked out of power, latest next year. Instead ask him to account for the $20b he stole.

    • emmanuel

      How you go get sense wen you dey sweep street for cold, instead of coming to Ninja to sell tokunbo spare part and eat Ugba and Abacha!

      There is no missing $20b anywhere and for your information, Jonathan is in till 2019.

      • Ikechukwu_67

        Please bring out facts to show that there is no 20billion dollars missing. At least we saw sanusi’s allegations. Let us see your rebuttals in figures too…..

        • emmanuel

          Where are the documents produced by Sanusi to support his claims.

          CBN is not a newspaper House, it is a sanctuary of figures and accuracy. Please stop making jest of yourselves from where Sanusi left you people in limbo.

          Go See Akingbola’s case and the relevant figures produced by EFCC and CBN. Where are the papers produced for the NNPC stories?

          I leave you to your conscience.

          You may also beg the House of Representatives to bring their documents. Did not you ask them why they backed out?

          • Ikechukwu_67

            It’s obvious you are not reading newspapers.please google sanusi’s facts on the $20 billion dollars and you would see his reasons.I would want you to direct me to a website where government or nnpc rebuttals with facts can be checked. I don’t want buhari or tinubu’s yarns here o..

  • emmanuel

    Let the USA bring back the money.

    They have used their media to tout our Government since the Chibok kidnap as a very corrupt nation, yet they have kept Abacha’s loot and several other looted funds from all over the world in their country – bastion of corruption.

    The case of a kettle calling the pot black.

    The USA the house of corruption is angry at Nigeria romance with China. I wonder why Jonathan condemn the Russia occupation Of Ukraine. We should have stayed neutral to tout the USA.

    • HAMZA

      …..should also allow USA use the money in question in return for their book haram security services. At least nothing should go for nothing.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    Buhari said Abacha was not a thief. Is Buhari, a pathological liar?

    • HAMZA

      Abacha’s life style was not for money. May the children took the money. Abacha like ‘chopping’ life and had no time to engage in plundering of the treasury. And that was what Buhari wanted to infer.

  • Spoken word

    The government has not accounted for the missing usd 20 billion but wants stolen funds returned to the same government so it can be looted again.shame on the FGN

  • Truthometer

    2015 presidential is fast approaching. Dumbo and his wrecking crew needs the money.