Switzerland To Return $321million Abacha's Loot

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Nine NGOs representing Nigerian Civil Society Organizations at the 1st Global Forum on Asset Recovery, GFAR, inaugural meeting in the United States have hailed the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Nigerian government and the Swiss Authorities, and have urged both sponsors (U.S. and UK governments) of the GFAR Summit to emulate the determination of the Swiss Authorities to track, freeze and return all looted Nigerian wealth and assets in their countries.

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".

The Swiss government has paid $700m of the "Abacha loot" to the Nigerian government in the last 10 years and the outstanding $320m is the last of the money on Swiss soil and will be remitted in the next two to three years, ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, head of the Swiss delegation to GFAR told BBC's Gbolahan Macjob in a telephone interview.

The son was charged by a Swiss court with money-laundering, fraud and forgery in April 2005, after being extradited from Germany, and later spent 561 days in custody.

"These assets, which were initially frozen in Luxembourg, were repatriated and confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor's office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December, 2014".

Isah said the modalities for the return of the stolen funds are set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed by the three parties at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) now ongoing in the United States.

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He explained that the MoU spelt out the modalities of returning the sum of $321m by Switzerland to Nigeria.

Switzerland said the agreement was in line with its policy on returning illegally acquired assets and would set a good example for future cases, according to a statement from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The signing of this MOU gives Nigeria visibility and will set precedence on the need for transparent management of returned assets internationally".

"It will be used to finance projects that will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population".

President Muhammadu Buhari, 74, was elected in 2015 after campaigning to end widespread corruption in the country of more than 180 million people, one of Africa's top oil and gas producers.

A government spokesperson said that the World Bank and the Swiss Government have agreed to a Terms of Reference for the independent monitoring of the restituted account by Nigeria CSOs.

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