Switzerland to return millions in stolen funds to Nigeria

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The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) on Tuesday said Nigeria will receive the sum of $321m stolen by the family of late Head of State, General Sani Abacha following the signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Switzerland and the World Bank.

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

Although an agreement to repatriate the money was signed in March, the Nigerian Ministry of Justice, the World Bank and lawyers from Switzerland and the U.S. have been grappling with legal complications surrounding the return of the money, says the BBC's Stephanie Hegarty in Abuja.

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. It is a recognition of Civil Society Organisation's active engagement in the process leading to this MoU, a distinctive departure from the past practice of government to government agreement resulting in a re-looting of recovered funds. A pre-GFAR conference was convened with the aim of bringing Nigerian CSOs together to build an enduring framework for asset recovery, pursuant to the establishment of an asset recovery unit in Nigeria.

"We hope this will encourage the US, UK, and others to walk the talk of GFAR political commitment to ensure a speedy return of all stolen assets from Nigeria still in the US and UK".

Switzerland did not say precisely when the money will be released.

The money was frozen in 2014 by a Swiss court after a legal procedure against his son, Abba Abacha.

In 2006, Luxembourg ordered that funds held by the younger Abacha be frozen.

Isah said the Director of the Directorate of International Law and head of the Swiss delegation to the GFAR, Roberto Balzaretti, signed the MoU on behalf of the government of Switzerland and the Country Director of the World Bank office in Abuja, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, signed on behalf the World Bank.

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