More facts have emerged as to how the late General Sani Abacha and his cronies fleeced Nigeria of over $2 billion – and laundered the loot abroad using nine American banks, Authority Newspaper has reported.
The key actors in the loot saga included the late dictator’s son, Mohammed Sani Abacha; Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, Alhaji Ahmadu Daura, Chief Anthony Ani, Mr. David Umaru, Dumez Group, Doraville Properties Corporation, Eagle Alliance International Limited (Eagle Alliance), Mecosta Securities (Inc.), Rayville International SA, Ridley Group Limited, Standard Alliance Financial Services Limited and Dumez Nigeria Limited.
Issues relating to the recovery of the money have become a subject of legal tussle between the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Abubakar Malami and Messrs Jude Chukwuma Ezeala, Kenneth Nnaka, Godson Nnaka and Charles Lion Agwumezie, US-based attorneys who claimed they were instrumental to the discovery of the loot.
The attorneys have unsuccessfully struggled to be paid $220 million as legal fees, calculated at a substantial percentage of the recovered loot.
The US District Court for the District of Columbia, presided over by Justice John D. Bates, had on May 6, 2016, rejected the motion for attorney’s fee made by Nnaka and others because Nigeria was not a party to the asset forfeiture litigation held in the US and also because the AGF “wrote to the US government asserting that Nnaka and his team lacked the authority to represent Nigeria”.
The court, however, lampooned Nigeria’s AGFs (names withheld) over what it described as the recourse by them to ask for kick-backs (bribes) from the US-based attorneys before they could give them letters showing they had the permission of Nigeria to handle the matter.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) gave Abacha a clean bill in Kano on 8th June, 2008, after the remembrance prayers marking 10 years of Abacha’s death, the issue of the Abacha loot bobbled up again because Nigeria is pressing the US to repatriate the loot.
The current economic recession and lean oil revenue, which forced President Buhari to submit a request for external borrowing of $30 billion to finance critical infrastructure, have thrown up the matter of the looted funds once again.
According to the court record which was obtained by Authority Newspaper , the money was laundered using nine US-based banks.
The banks include ANZ Banking Group, New York; Bankers Trust Company, New York; Barclays Bank, New York; Citibank NA, New York; Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; Chemical Bank, New York; Commerzbank AG, New York; Marine Midland Bank, New York (now HSBC USA, NA, and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, New York (now JP Morgan Chase).
According to the findings of the District of Columbia court, “the action in rem to forfeit the assets was an international conspiracy to launder proceeds of corruption in Nigeria during the military regime of General Sani Abacha.
“Gen. Abacha, his son, Mohammed Sani Abacha; their associate, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and others embezzled, misappropriated, defrauded and extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from the government of Nigeria and others, including the proceeds of those crimes through conduct in and affecting the United States.
“The defendants in rem are subject to forfeiture as property involved in money laundering offences in violation of US law.
“As alleged, in one scheme, Gen. Abacha together with others systematically embezzled public funds worth billions of dollars from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the false pretence the funds were necessary for national security.
“In another scheme, they generated windfall financial transactions of over $282 million through a fraudulent debt buy-back and also extorted more than $11 million from a French company, through its Nigerian subsidiary, Dumez Nigeria Limited, in connection with payments relating to the Ajaokuta Steel Company contract”.
Explaining how the money was fleeced, the presiding justice of the court stated that: “Proceeds of the security votes fraud were transported into and out of the US in violation of the US law and pooled into bank accounts in London, where they were used to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of US dollar-denominated Nigerian bonds.
“The bonds generated tens of millions of dollar interest paid through Citibank in New York and guaranteed by the US; in effect, the conspirators lent money stolen from Nigeria back to Nigeria with zero risk and at enormous profit.
“By 2007, the bonds were liquidated and the proceeds from the sale of the bonds, together with the proceeds of the debt buy-back fraud and the Dumez extortion, were deposited into different bank accounts using corporate entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, and other holding in the UK, France and Bailiwick of Jersey”.