Abacha loot: Late Nigerian dictator owns $267m uncovered in Jersey

The money is now being held by the government until authorities in Jersey, the US and Nigeria agree on distribution
Court seizes uncovered $267m loot owned by late Nigerian dictator in Jersey
Court seizes uncovered $267m loot owned by late Nigerian dictator in Jersey

Authorities in the small island nation of Jersey have seized $267,000,000 from a bank account that belonged to a former Nigerian military dictator, General Sani Abacha.

Abacha was a Nigerian army officer who was Head of State between November 1993 until his death in June 1998.

Then Nigerian President General Sani Abacha at the airport of Abuja.
(FILES) File photo dated 1996 shows then Nigerian President General Sani Abacha at the airport of Abuja. Abacha died of cardiac arrest, according to friends and family. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP FILES / AFP)

UK media reports said Abacha had laundered the money through the US into the Channel Islands. The money was recovered and put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company.

The money is now being held by the government until authorities in Jersey, the US and Nigeria come to an agreement on how it should be distributed.

Any money that Jersey does keep will be put into the Criminal Confiscation Fund, which is used to pay for a variety of projects. In the past, the fund has been used for the new police station and developments at La Moye Prison.

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It is expected that even more money held by Doraville is likely to be seized and paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund in the future.

“In restraining the funds at the request of the United States of America, through whose banking system the funds were laundered prior to arriving here, and in achieving the payment of the bulk of the funds into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund, Jersey has once again demonstrated its commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering,” said Robert MacRae, Attorney General of Jersey.

In 2014, at the request of the US authorities, the Island’s Attorney General applied for, and the Royal Court granted, a restraining order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville.

The purpose of the restraining order was to preserve the money until a final civil asset recovery order could be registered in the Royal Court.

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Doraville applied to the Royal Court for the restraint order to be discharged, but the Royal Court dismissed the application in 2016. Then in 2017, Doraville challenged the Royal Court’s decision, taking the case to Jersey’s Court of Appeal.

That challenge was again rejected. Finally, following the decision of Jersey’s Court of Appeal, Doraville made an application to appeal against the restraint order before the Privy Council – Jersey’s ultimate appellate court.

In February 2018, the Privy Council announced its rejection of this final legal challenge. Last week, Solicitor General, Mark Temple gave a presentation in Vienna, Austria, about Doraville at a UN conference on corruption.

He said:

“The conference of the States Parties to the United Nations convention against corruption is an important international forum concerned with anti-corruption measures and asset returns.”

He further added:

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“The conference was a good opportunity to demonstrate progress with the Doraville case, as well as Jersey’s determination to deal with international financial crime more generally.”

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, between England and France. A self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom, with a mix of British and French cultures.

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