By Victoria Ojeme
The Republic of Ireland has agreed to return about N2,514,651,800 (€5.5 million) stolen by the Nigerian former head of state, General Sani Abacha to Nigeria.
The Ireland Criminal Assets Bureau was said to have frozen the money in 2014 where it was kept in an Ireland bank account.
The agreement was made during the signing of memorandum of understanding by Ireland minister of justice and equality, Helen McEntee, followed an order recently issued by a court in Ireland regarding the funds.
“I am very pleased to sign this Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and Nigeria. This represents the culmination of a long process which began with an internationally led investigation,” McEntee said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Criminal Assets Bureau took part in this international operation which led to the freezing of over $1 billion in funds worldwide, of which approximately €5.5 million was identified in a Dublin based bank account.
“The return of these assets will be the first time that Ireland has taken such action and will be a concrete demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption and to assisting countries which have been adversely affected by corruption in the past, and is in line with our international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption.”
She said the MoU to return the loot was achieved by significant multi-agency collaboration in Ireland, adding: “It demonstrates the intent of both States to uphold our shared values and our international obligations to eliminate corruption.”
Transparency International estimates Abacha might have looted as much as $5 billion during his regime from 1993 to 1998.
About $3.6 billion has so far been recovered out of that money. The recoveries have, however, been marred by corruption.
An agency had reported how the federal government paid controversial legal fees of up to $15 million to lawyers Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, hired for the repatriation of $321 million Abacha Loot from Switzerland.
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