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US Government to Return Abacha’s $458 Million Loot to Nigerians?

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General Sani Abacha - Bella Naija

Earlier this month, it was reported that the United States Government ordered for the seizure of the late General Sani Abacha’s assets worth $458 million. If you missed the story, click here.

Recent reports state that two US senior lawyers who are also professors of Law, are actively petitioning for the money to be returned to Nigerians. And by “Nigerians” we don’t mean the Nigerian government. They are urging the US government to return the funds directly to the Nigerian people via investments in healthcare initiatives, or through charitable organizations that actively contribute towards the welfare of the Nigerian people.

The lawyers, Nicholai Diamond and Alexander Sierck of Cameron LPP in Washington DC, made the petition in a detailed letter to Eric Holder, Jr. the Attorney General of United States of America as Volunteer Counsel for Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

Dated 18 March 2014, the letter is titled ‘Re: Abacha Kleptocracy Forfeiture Action.

Some contents of the letter are as follows:

“SERAP respectfully requests that the U.S. Department of Justice establish a general process for the repatriation of assets seized as part of its Kleptocracy Initiative.

SERAP’s request arises in the specific context of the Department’s March 6, 2014 announcement that it has frozen more than $458 million in corruption proceeds, which have been hidden in bank accounts around the world by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and conspirators, to implement the civil forfeiture complaint filed in federal district court here in Washington.

As the Department stated in its press release announcing the seizure, these seized funds properly belong to the citizens the kleptocrats ostensibly served.”

According to the lawyers, “Even though the Department has only recently filed the civil forfeiture complaint regarding the Abacha-related assets, SERAP respectfully submits that its request is nonetheless timely in regard to such assets.

This is because in many such cases, the kleptocrats owning the seized property do not appear in the U.S. to contest the seizure because they would then subject themselves to personal jurisdiction in the underlying criminal case that might be filed against them. Thus, at some point, perhaps by the end of 2014, there will be a default on the Abacha asset seizure, consequently freeing up the assets for repatriation to or for the benefit of Nigeria and its citizens.”

“SERAP notes that in a September 19, 2011 interview with the Main Justice blog, Jennifer Shasky, speaking on behalf of the Department’s Kleptocracy Initiative, stated that: the Department has no [legal] obligation to repatriate assets subject to civil forfeiture, but that the Department is committed to finding ways to repatriate or otherwise use such funds for the benefit of the victim country. SERAP assumes that this is still the Department’s position,” the lawyers also said.

They also noted that, “on March 15, 2012, SERAP filed a letter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division seeking comparable repatriation of civil fines paid in connection with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act settlements.

In particular, SERAP proposed that such fines be repatriated to or for the benefit of the people of the victim country in the event that the SEC determined not to pay such proceeds directly to the government where officials were apparently bribed.

To that end, SERAP proposed that such funds might be conveyed to a reliable U.S. or Nigerian charitable organization to be spent on health care, for example, subject to anti-corruption safeguards.” The lawyers also “requests that the Department publish for public comment a proposal for the disposition of such seized assets, not just in the Abacha context but in all such Kleptocracy Initiative cases. In SERAP’s judgment, the Department’s proposal ought to explain:

When and under what circumstances the Department will “foreclose” on such seized, and presumably defaulted, assets. · Whether and when the Department will provide public notice of such foreclosure.

Whether, following such foreclosure, the Department will provide public notice, of 90 days for example, for requests for repatriation to be filed.

Vanguard was first to report this story.

38 Comments

  1. AVID BLOG READER

    March 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks to them but that would be redundant because the money will be embezzled again by the current leaders. Just judging by the headline though.

    • Blessmyheart

      March 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      I thought so too judging by the headline but this is directly to the Nigerian people through healthcare initiatives and charity. That’s better.

  2. Donald-Landon

    March 20, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    That’s just exactly what they need to do. “Return it irectly to the Nigerian people via investments in healthcare initiatives, or through charitable organizations that actively contribute towards the welfare of the Nigerian people.” We all know if they give the Nigerian Government that money; it will develop wings or legs just like the $20 billion.

    • amaa

      March 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Chop knuckle foolish children I don’t blame them when you have a father that has absolutely no morals or integrity how do you expect that the children from his loins to be anything different

  3. Pynk

    March 20, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Where are his kids to write open letter? $1 million per Nigerian is eneough to move this country forward in terms of amenities such as education.

    • Ides of March

      March 22, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Thank you! That’s what i was saying. Even if Nigerians chose to spend it all, at least it will boost the economy. Some of us are looking for investment money

  4. @edDREAMZ

    March 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Thank God they were being specific… Nigerians and not the nigerian goverment…..
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  5. moitelkel

    March 20, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    let’s hope they do

  6. Leila

    March 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    OMG, early Christmas for Aso Rock and Politicians. Again Nigerians are on the losing end, when will all this end.

    • ao

      March 21, 2014 at 1:44 am

      Did you read the article?

    • Jo!

      March 21, 2014 at 10:47 am

      As in, I tire

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      as in…

  7. NaijaPikin

    March 20, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Don’t want to sound negative but we all know the money will end up in personal pockets once it is returned to naija. sad life

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 21, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Yeah, to be honest, the cynical part of me picked up on this as I was reading the article. Imagine the amount of us who’ve now realized what route the U.S govt might be exploring to return the money. Then multiply the amount of suspect NGOs already in the country by 1000… because that’s what’s going to happen, astute Nigerians will see the benefit of establishing community outreach organizations so that they can receive their own “cut” when the money’s been returned to be utilized for Nigerians…

  8. bello

    March 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Chai! SHM!

  9. SOLO ACT

    March 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    plz they should not return it oo! because i know it wud just land in the hands of another greedy tyrant like Abacha

  10. ebrufles

    March 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    THIS IS GREAT ‘Nigerian people’ not government that will do rubbish with it.

  11. TrendySturvs Blog

    March 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    They shouldn’t return it o! It will get missing here

    trendysturvsblog.com/

  12. Tiny

    March 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Lool, to return the money to who exactly? That cash will be passed around and wacked! National cake for the government oooooo!

  13. Sugar

    March 20, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    God bless the US. Whoever said they should leave us alone, please eat your words.

  14. Mademoiselle

    March 20, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Na so this 458 million go just “loss” like the other billion naira. Kmt

  15. chi-e-z

    March 20, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Well the way I see it. It is btw U.S govt and nigerian govt. Soo nigerian people are not going to see a dime or kobo of that money. Trust that after legal fees nd watevas.. it is either going to healthcare in U.S. or greedy politicians in Nigeria.

    • chi-e-z

      March 20, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      I personally won’t tak a dime of that hell-fire bounded man’s money even if I was given it. with all the pain he caused me and my family and others.

    • Tincan

      March 21, 2014 at 11:24 am

      It’s not his money. It’s your money.

  16. Amh

    March 21, 2014 at 12:47 am

    The bastards politicians are already sharing the loot. Dont think our prayers are anwered in nigeria,waiting patiently for the day the lord will deliver us.

  17. sara

    March 21, 2014 at 2:54 am

    They should give the money to nonprofits that meet a certain criteria and aren’ t connected to any politician and their families.

    • Berry Dakara

      March 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

      I was going to say that I’m sure all the politicians will open NGOs now and collect the money.

  18. Narnia

    March 21, 2014 at 3:20 am

    So many things that money can do the citizens and different communities
    I pray God touches the heart of politicians use it wisely rather than spending it
    Lavishly!
    Imagine that money goes into government schools, the roads, renovation of hospitals….ah the list goes on

  19. Bird's Eye

    March 21, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Hmm…I’m not sure of this. Is there any honest, content person left in Nigeria?

  20. pd

    March 21, 2014 at 4:51 am

    I wish the money can be used to build well equipped hospitals in all states in Nig.

  21. pd

    March 21, 2014 at 4:54 am

    I thk a reliable US charitable organisation will handle the funds better.

  22. Abamaco12

    March 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Nigerians always ready to disappoint me…never able to see past their noses.

    Not one intelligent comment on how come America had the money in the first place and for over 16 years? Despite all their screaming and taunting us of corruption, the U.S conspired with the Abacha family to hold this money in their country.

    Look at the bigger corruption and deceit here, they have held nearly half a billion dollars of Nigeria’s in their banks, which would have generated interest running into billions for them for over 16 years, now they have the effrontery to talk of returning the initial sum alone.

    Shame on them.

    • amaa

      March 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

      God bless you I just tire. Why was the money even allowed to get there in the first place what of all the interests accrued on the money? Again they are deciding how and when to return our money I understand they are taking this route to mitigate the Nigerians govt penchant for waste. Scholarships,Infrastructure would be an advisable route to do

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      The comment(s) you’re looking for on this page was already made when the story first broke (re-read the first line of the article and then click on the link to take you there). We’ve now gone past that as we follow the news to see what outcome will be reached…

  23. aframaco

    March 21, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Nigerians always ready to disappoint me…never able to see past their noses.

    Not one intelligent comment on how come America had the money in the first place and for over 16 years? Despite all their screaming and taunting us of corruption, the U.S conspired with the Abacha family to hold this money in their country.

    Look at the bigger corruption and deceit here, they have held nearly half a billion dollars of Nigeria’s in their banks, which would have generated interest running into billions for them for over 16 years, now they have the effrontery to talk of returning the initial sum alone.

    Shame on them.

  24. osy

    March 21, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Abi o! and yet they will be quick to announce how many billions of dollars we owe the world bank

  25. dee

    March 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

    The US trying ot outsmart us. No Charitable organization nor Nigerain Govt should lay a finger on it. Let the money just stay where it is. Untouched!!!

    • Bleed Blue

      March 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      To what end biko?

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