U.S. Forfeits Nigerian Dictator’s Illegal Wealth through Kleptocracy Action
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In the largest action of its kind brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative the U.S. government has forfeited more than $480 million in corruption proceeds that had been hidden in bank accounts around the world by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators.
The judgment was entered on Aug. 6, 2014, by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia. It is the result of a civil forfeiture complaint filed by the Department of Justice in November 2013 against more than $625 million of Abacha's money.
The DOJ said in its press release that this is the largest kleptocracy action in the history of the US Department of Justice.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said, "Rather than serve his county, General Abacha used his public office in Nigeria to loot millions of dollars, engaging in brazen acts of kleptocracy …. With this judgment, we have forfeited $480 million in corruption proceeds that can be used for the benefit of the Nigerian people."
The forfeited assets represent the proceeds of corruption during and after the military regime of General Abacha, who assumed the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through a military coup on Nov. 17, 1993, and held that position until his death on June 8, 1998.
The complaint alleges that General Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and others embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions of dollars from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through U.S. financial institutions and the purchase of bonds backed by the United States.
Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI's Washington Field Office, said, "We remain steadfast in protecting the U.S. banking system from becoming a tool for dictators to hide their criminal proceeds …. This court order bolsters the FBI's ability to combat international corruption and money laundering by seizing the assets of those involved."
The forfeiture judgment includes approximately $303 million in two bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey, $144 million in two bank accounts in France, and three bank accounts in the United Kingdom and Ireland with an expected value of at least $27 million. The ultimate disposition of the funds will follow the execution of the judgment in each of these jurisdictions. Claims to an additional approximately $148 million in four investment portfolios in the United Kingdom are pending.
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