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Another $319m (N121billion) Abacha loot in UK, France – US

The United State of America on Wednesday disclosed that there is a separate $319million (N121billion) Abacha loot still holed up in the United Kingdom and France even after it facilitated the repatriation of $311m (N118bn) looted by the former military head of state.

In a statement on Wednesday, the US embassy in Nigeria noted that the breakdown is $167m in stolen assets in France and a separate $152m in the UK which is being challenged in court.

The embassy statement said, “The funds returned last week are distinct and separate from an additional $167m in stolen assets also forfeited in the United Kingdom and France, as well as $152m still in active litigation in the United Kingdom.”

The US has said the $311m that was repatriated to Nigeria last week must be used by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority for three infrastructure projects in strategic economic zones across Nigeria, as authorized by the Nigerian government.

The recovered funds will help finance the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kano road, the US said.

The agreement includes mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of these projects as well as external oversight.

Bloomberg had reported that the repatriation of the $152m (now $155m due to interest) to Nigeria is being challenged by the UK and the US because of alleged plans by the Nigerian government to give $110m out of the money to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, a known associate of the late Abacha.

Nigeria is seeking the approval of a UK court to take ownership of the assets before returning 70 percent of the proceeds to Bagudu under the terms of a 2018 deal, according to Bloomberg.

Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has, however, denied ever entering a deal with Bagudu but court papers say otherwise.

The UK government’s National Crime Agency is also “opposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application,” according to a motion filed by Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, to the District Court for the District of Columbia in the US capital on March 30.

The US Department of Justice said in February that its Nigerian counterpart is hindering its efforts to recover the allegedly laundered money from the UK.

Bagudu was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria,” according to the US Department of Justice.

Abacha is estimated to have stolen as much as $5bn during his five-year rule.

That 2003 settlement, which was approved by a UK court, allowed Bagudu to return $163m to Nigeria “without admitting to wrongdoing,” according to US court filings.

Bagudu was elected a senator in 2009 and the governor of Kebbi State six years later.

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