Abacha Loot: Switzerland To Return $380m To Nigeria

Sani-AbachaGeneva’s public prosecutor has said that Switzerland will return to Nigeria about $380 million linked to the former military leader, General Sani Abacha.

The decision to return the funds followed a July 2014 deal between Nigeria and the Abacha family.

Under the agreement, the funds would be confiscated and returned to Nigeria while the Federal Government would drop its case against the deceased dictator’s son, Abba Abacha.

Placed In Several Accounts

Geneva prosecutors’ office said in a statement that the $380 million had been placed in several accounts abroad that were controlled by the Abacha family, which is considered a criminal organisation.

The money was seized in 2006 in Luxembourg, under orders from the Swiss authorities.

The Abacha family had also placed some $500 million in Swiss banks, though those funds had already been returned to Nigeria.

The $380 million will be returned under the World Bank’s supervision, said the prosecutor’s office.

The authorities have also decided to drop their case against Abba Abacha, which began in 1999.

In 2012, the dictator’s son was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence for participating in a criminal organisation.

Switzerland’s top court cancelled the sentence in May 2014, citing procedural reasons.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office on Tuesday said Abba Abacha had already been detained for 561 days from 2004 to 2006, without receiving compensation.

The Abacha affair began in 1999, when Nigeria asked the Swiss judicial authorities to help it recover $2.2 billion

Court upholds Abacha’s sentence

A Geneva court has confirmed the sentence handed down to the son of former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha for belonging to a criminal organisation linked to looted assets charges.

Nigeria's late dictator General Sani Abacha

Abba Abacha’s lawyers say their absent client will appeal.

On Thursday the Geneva Police Court rejected a medical excuse put forward by Abacha’s lawyers which they claim explained his absence from the long-awaited retrial.

“His absence is unjustified and he never asked to be represented by his lawyers,” the judge declared.

This absence meant opposition to his one-year suspended prison sentence for belonging to a criminal organisation handed down by the same court in summer 2010 was “deemed withdrawn”, the judge concluded.

During the hearing, Abacha’s lawyers presented a medical certificate from a Geneva doctor who had travelled to Nigeria to examine him, which stated that he was still unable to travel to Geneva. Abacha injured his back during a road accident in Nigeria several days before the retrial was due to open in July this year.

But based on separate independent medical conclusions, the judge declared Abacha had a minor injury and could have easily managed the air flight three months after his accident. Prosecutor Dario Zanni accused Abacha of “playing for time”.

Abacha did not appear before the court during the original 2010 hearing as he failed to get a visa in time.

The case was heard in his absence and he received a one-year suspended sentence. However, in March 2011 an appeal court quashed the verdict and ordered a retrial. It found that Abacha’s rights had been “seriously violated” because the case had been heard in his absence. The Swiss Federal Court backed the appeal court’s decision which led to Thursday’s retrial.

As part of the family structure set up by his father, 43-year-old Abacha was found guilty of helping to plunder the Nigerian treasury while Sani Abacha was in power in the 1990s.

The court ordered the confiscation of the sum – thought to be over $400 million (N100 billion) – which Abba Abacha stashed in the Bahamas and Luxembourg.

The Abacha clan is thought to have diverted a total of about $5 billion from the Nigerian treasury.

Abacha’s son absent at Swiss trial again

The trial of Abba Abacha, son of late Military President Sani Abacha, began in his absence in Switzerland on Wednesday, for the second time in two years.

Abba, who is accused of misappropriating funds while his father was in power, was said to be unable to travel after a road accident, his counsel told the Swiss court.

At a previous trial in 2010, the young Abacha failed to turn up at court after Swiss authorities refused to grant him a visa.

Counsel to the defendant, Christian Luscher, was quoted by Swiss news that the accident happened last Thursday in Kano, where  Abba lives. He is said to have sustained head injuries and whiplash from the accident.

A medical certificate and police report were produced at the court to back up the claim, before the lawyer asked for the trial to be adjourned till his client is fit to travel.

Late Sani Abacha is estimated to have siphoned about $2 billion off the nation’s wealth, of which $700 million has been returned  from Swiss bank accounts to the Nigerian government.

Another $400 million is believed to be in Luxembourg, lawyers for the federal government have said.

At his initial trial in 2010, Abba Abacha received a two-year suspended sentence.

The presiding judges also ordered the confiscation of $350 million dollars from his accounts in Luxembourg and the Bahamas.

The judgment was annulled by Switzerland’s Supreme Court after it found that Abba’s rights had been violated since he was tried in absentia.

Abacha’s son to face fresh Swiss trial

The son of former military head of state Sani Abacha, Abba Abacha, will face a new trial in Switzerland starting July 4 on charges of participation in a criminal organisation that raided public funds, his lawyer announced on Friday.

Abba’s lawyer, Christian Luescher, told Swiss news agency ATS that his client wanted to come to Geneva to attend the trial.

During a previous trial in 2010, Abba did not attend as he was unable to obtain a visa. The court convicted him in absentia, handing down a two-year suspended prison term and confiscating his assets.

But he won an appeal over procedural irregularities and the fact that he was unable to obtain a visa in time.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal therefore ordered the sentence annulled and a retrial.

If he is unable to get a visa this time, the new trial will be delayed.

Abba, 43, denies all charges.

Sani Abacha took over power in  1993. Until his death in 1998, he siphoned off an estimated $2 billion from the country’s central bank, including $700 million that was deposited in Swiss banks.