Luxembourg, Switzerland : A $321 million tranche of the public funds stolen by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha will be returned to the West African nation, the government of Switzerland said in a statement on Monday.
“In accordance with policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly US$321 for the benefit of the Nigerian people,” the Swiss government said.
The money, originally deposited in Luxembourg, was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 and in March last year the two states signed an agreement on its repatriation.
Military ruler Abacha, in power from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria’s central bank in what the United States has called “brazen acts of kleptocracy”.
Switzerland has previously returned approximately $700 million stolen by Abacha to Nigeria after the country issued multiple appeals. The $321 million transfer is the last installment of the “Abacha loot” in Switzerland.
“We don’t have any assets of the former [Nigerian] president or entourage or family in Switzerland. We’ve restituted all we had been able to freeze and confiscate,” Balzaretti added.
The Swiss statement said these funds were frozen in a legal procedure by Geneva’s public prosecutor against Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son.
It said the return of the funds would be supported and supervised by the World Bank, adding that the move should “strengthen social security for the poorest Nigerians”.
When the agreement was announced, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter had said the fight against corruption was “one of Switzerland’s priorities”.
“The project will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population. The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption,” the Swiss government said this week.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari – in office since 2015 – campaigned on purging corruption, vowing to recover what he said were “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over decades.