The government of Ireland has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian government for the return of €5.5 million stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha.
By Kunle Sanni
The Irish minister for justice, Helen McEntee, said the return of the asset followed a forfeiture order by a high court in Ireland in 2015.
Ms McEntee also disclosed that the asset were frozen in a Dublin-based bank account by her country’s anti-graft agency, Criminal Assets Bureau, in 2014. This was after a team of legal representatives from Nigeria approached the Irish government regarding the return of the loot.
“I am very pleased to sign this Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and Nigeria,” the minister said on Thursday in a statement published on the Irish government website.
“This represents the culmination of a long process which began with an internationally led investigation. The Criminal Assets Bureau took part in this international operation which led to the freezing of over $1 billion in funds worldwide, of which approximately €5.5 million was identified in a Dublin based bank account.”
The minister also said the agreement, which is the first between the Irish government and Nigeria, “is in line with its international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption.
“The return of these assets will be the first time that Ireland has taken such action and will be a concrete demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption and to assisting countries which have been adversely affected by corruption in the past, and is in line with our international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the Nigerian Minister for Justice announcing the recovery of a $311 million asset of the late Mr Abacha repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The recovery followed a tripartite agreement signed in January between Nigeria, the Island of Jersey, and the United States of America, as part of Nigeria’s efforts to recover more stolen funds stashed abroad.
Nigeria had also recovered other tranches of Abacha loot, including the latest, US$308 million laundered by Kebbi State governor, Mr Bagudu, from Jersey.
In 2006, another $723 million Abacha loot was returned to Nigeria from Switzerland but the use of the recovery was largely unaccounted, Transparency International said.
Mr Abacha was a notorious kleptocrat and is listed alongside Indonesia’s Suharto and Mobutu Seko of Zaire (now DR Congo) among the worst state official thieves in the world by Transparency International. It is estimated that Mr Abacha stole between three billion and five billion dollars, most from Nigeria’s oil wealth.