NIGERIA: Liechtenstein to Return Abacha’s Loot

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 Liechtenstein yesterday revealed that it would return 167 million euros ($227 million) to Nigeria, ending a long-drawn battle by Nigerian government to recover the money looted by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

The revelation is coming on the heels of the withdrawal of the charges filed against Abacha’s son, Mohammed, by the federal government.

Abacha, who died in 1998, was suspected to have looted Nigeria to the tune of about $2.2 billion during his dictatorial ruled from November 1993 to June 1998.
Nigeria first requested help from Liechtenstein in 2000 to recover the cash stashed there.

The tiny principality of 37,000 people returned 7.5 million euros to Nigeria in late 2013, but the restitution of the bulk of the cash had long been blocked by lawsuits brought by companies linked to Abacha's family.

Several of the companies were sentenced in 2008 to repay money proven to have been stolen from Nigeria's national budget, but four of the firms filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Following negotiations between the governments of Liechtenstein and Nigeria, the four ended up withdrawing their complaints in May, "clearing the path for repatriation of the assets once and for all," Vaduz said in a statement yesterday. The World Bank had agreed "to monitor the use of the repatriated assets," the statement added.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s decision to withdraw the charges it filed against Mohammed was announced at yesterday's proceedings before Justice Mamman Kolo of an Abuja High Court.

The federal government had through a private lawyer, Daniel Enwelum, filed a nine-count charge against Mohammed, accusing him of “dishonestly receiving stolen property” and “voluntarily assisted in concealing money," belonging to the state which was estimated at N446.3billion.

Efforts by the government to arraign Mohammed on the charge was unsuccessful as he failed to attend court on two occasions when the case was earlier mentioned.
Yesterday, Mohammed was in court. He mounted the dock when the case was called, shortly after which Enwelum informed the court about the directive he got from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to the effect that he should discontinue the case.

"I have been instructed by the AGF and Minister of Justice to withdraw the charges as presently filed before this court, because there are fresh facts and documents available to him.

"In this circumstance, he instructed me to file a notice of withdrawal without prejudice to future cause of action to be taken by his (AGF's) office.
"In the light of that, I have filed a notice of withdrawal dated June 17. I humbly apply to withdraw the charges accordingly," Enwelum said.

Defence lawyer, Abdullahi Haruna, did not object to the decision by the state to withdraw the charge.

Ruling, Justice Kolo granted the application to withdraw the charges.
He consequently struck out the charges and discharge the accused person.

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