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Swiss to return $380m looted by late Abacha and family

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Swiss officials have said the $380m siphoned off by the family of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, and confiscated by the Geneva authorities, will be returned to Nigeria. The amount is about N75.2bn at N198/dollar interbank rate.

The file on the matter, opened since 1999, would be closed, the officials said in a statement on the website of the Geneva public prosecutor’s office.

According to the office, the move comes now that Nigeria and the Abacha family have struck a deal.

The Federal Government has long been chasing funds looted by the Abacha clan while the matriach was in power from 1994 to 1998.

The prosecutor’s office said overall, the Abacha clan was thought to have diverted about $5bn from the Nigerian treasury, adding that much of it ended up abroad.

“The $380m in question was seized in Luxembourg in 2006 on the orders of the Geneva justice authorities. The funds were under the control of various companies controlled by the Abacha family, which is considered a criminal organisation,” the prosecutor’s office said in the statement.

It said the repatriation and confiscation of the funds followed the conclusion of an agreement in July 2014 between the Federal Government and the Abacha family. This, it added, set out the confiscation of the assets and their return to Nigeria. The Federal Government would drop its complaint against Abba Abacha, the son of the former ruler.

According to the prosecutor’s office statement, the confiscation order “allows, among other things, that the funds returned to the Federal Republic of Nigeria are monitored by the World Bank,” and if the monitoring is not effective, the funds will be returned to the Geneva authorities.

The statement also said that the file against Abba Abacha was now closed, based on an article in the penal code, which allowed criminal proceedings to be abandoned once the defendant had made amends as much as was possible.

In 2012, after a legal back and forth, the Geneva Police Court gave Abba Abacha a one-year suspended prison sentence for belonging to a criminal organisation.

Abba was absent from the court room. The Federal Court in Lausanne, Switzerland’s highest instance, quashed the sentence in May 2014.

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