The National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom has recovered more than $23 million in funds stolen from Nigeria by the late military dictator Sani Abacha. The money was taken out of Nigeria in the 1990s by the allies and family of the military dictator.
On November 23, 1993, Abacha, the then-Minister of Defense in Nigeria, carried out a military coup to depose caretaker President Ernest Shonekan and ruled Nigeria until his death in 1998.
The military dictator died suddenly on June 8, 1998 and left billions of dollars unaccounted for. According to Transparency International, General Abacha looted up to $5 billion in public funds, and he was never charged with anything.
The recent 23 million was recovered by the UK after nearly seven years of protracted litigation and international negotiations to enforce a US forfeiture order related to the recovered funds.
According to a statement on the NCA website, the money is part of a larger pool of funds recognized by the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) as having been plundered by Abacha and his allies.
The 23 million has now been transferred to the Home Office of the US Department of Justice, and it remains to be seen whether the money will eventually be returned to Nigeria.
The NCA assured the UK public and the international community that it is determined to ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime. The agency stated that it is collaborating closely with UK and international partners to combat the menace of corruption, which disproportionately affects society's poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
This is the most recent in a long line of comparable recoveries around the world of General Abacha's loot. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo initiated the effort to recover the lost funds in 1999. The funds were stolen and stashed in various bank accounts throughout the world, and President Obasanjo negotiated an agreement with the Abacha family in 2002 to retrieve at least $1.2 billion for Nigeria.
Countries such as the United States and Switzerland have previously repatriated Abacha loot. Nigeria received $149 million from Jersey Island in 2003, and the money was sent to the ministries of power, works, health, education, and water resources to implement projects.
Liechtenstein also returned $227 million to Nigeria in June 2014. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed in August 2014 that the greatest amount recovered by them was $480 million.
Every year, the British police estimate that over £100 billion ($123 billion) in dirty money passes through or enters the United Kingdom, buying everything from expensive mansions to entire businesses. The Panama, Paradise, and Pandora Papers, among other leaks of financial records, have highlighted London's role as a global money-laundering centre.