Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
Abubakar Malami,Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has revealed that the Federal Government has concluded negotiation with the government of Switzerland on the return of $320 million recovered from the late Abacha family.
He added that with negotiation concluded, the two parties hope to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) and Consultative meeting in December while repatriation would follow within weeks as agreed by the parties.
Malami gave the hint in Abuja at the Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) and Consultative meeting with the theme; ‘Building an Enduring Framework for Asset Recovery in Nigeria’, in preparation to GFAR slated for December in Washington DC.
According to him, “my office has also put in place necessary machineries to hold bilateral talks with countries of interest during the Global Forum on Asset Recovery. These countries include United Kingdom, Island of Jersey, Guernsey (and other UK Territories), United State of America, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Northern Island and Gambia.”
”We have indeed concluded negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $320 million recovered from the late Abacha family. I am pleased to inform that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were involved in the negotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding.
“Most importantly, the CSOs will be involved in monitoring the use of the funds. With the conclusion of negotiation, parties hope to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the GFAR and repatriation will follow within weeks as agreed by the parties.
”I am also pleased to inform that Nigeria has just recovered the sum of $ 85 million on the Malabu Restrained Funds from UK,” the AGF added.
He lamented that recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth stashed abroad continues to be very tedious despite several bilateral and multilateral agreements entered into between Nigeria and other jurisdictions.
Malami stressed that even when the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption oblige State Parties to facilitate the return of stolen assets to victim states, countries including Nigeria are saddled with some challenges.
But he said that Nigeria is willing to support the transparent return of stolen assets, while also calling on international community improve on procedure for faster return of our assets to enable us meet the sustainable development goals.
The Justice minister noted that his office has coordinated the preparations bringing on board all government agencies whose mandate falls within the purview of asset recovery.
He used the forum to reiterate the need for the international community to ensure the implementation of the measures considered and adopted at the London Anti-Corruption Summit in May, 2016 which included: easing the legal technicalities and procedures associated with recovery and repatriation of stolen funds;reducing opportunities and incentives that enable stolen funds to be placed in banks, or laundered through property acquisition and investment in offshore locations, among others.
Eric Mayor, Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, said his government and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari are committed to fighting corruption, adding that the Swiss government changed her legislation in the last decades in order to avoid that stolen monies could be deposited in her banks.
He said Switzerland was the first country to give looted money back to Nigeria, especially a the sum of $722 million stolen by the Abacha family in 2005.
“The Swiss justice nevertheless continue its investigation and discover that there are other assets were still around and froze hundreds of millions of naira deposited by the Abacha family in other banks, this time not in Switzerland but in Luxembourg,” Mayor noted.