The United States of America has frozen over $458m of Nigeria’s public funds that former head of state General Sani Abacha and his cronies embezzled.
This comes just days after the former head of state was honoured by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Centenary Award Celebration.
The U.S. Justice Department in a statement on Wednesday said, about $313m was restrained in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey and $145 million was restrained in bank accounts in France.
The department said it was pursuing additional holdings in the United Kingdom with an expected value of at least $100 million, but that the exact amount would be determined later.
General Sani Abacha died in 1998 at the age of 54. For years, Nigeria has been fighting to recover his money, but companies linked to the Abacha family have gone to court to prevent repatriation.
The former military dictator reportedly looted between $3 billion and $5 billion of public money during his five years ruling Africa’s top oil producer from 1993 to 1998, after overthrowing the short-lived Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.
In November, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit seeking the recovery of money that had been identified in overseas bank accounts. A judge in Washington, D.C., unsealed the lawsuit on Wednesday.
Named alongside Abacha as conspirators in the suit were his son Mohammed Sani Abacha and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, whom the suit identified as an associate.
They laundered money through the purchase of bonds backed by the United States using U.S. financial institutions, according to prosecutors.
Last month, U.S. arrest warrants for the assets were enforced in France, as well as in the Bailiwick of Jersey off the coast of Normandy, through mutual legal assistance requests and in the United Kingdom through litigation, the Justice Department said.
The assets were held in banks including Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC and Banque SBA, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also seeks the forfeiture of five corporate entities registered in the British Virgin Islands.