UK recovers $23m Abacha loot after seven years of litigation

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Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), on Thursday, said it had recovered more than $23 million looted by the late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha.

Abacha ruled Africa’s most populous nation and top oil exporter from 1993 until his death in 1998, a period during which he stole up to $5 billion of public money, according to Transparency International.

The late military dictator was never charged.

The NCA, in a statement, said the money recovered in Britain formed part of a larger pool of funds identified by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to have been misappropriated by Abacha and his associates.

“The NCA is committed to ensuring that the UK is not a safe haven for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime, and civil recovery of assets is a powerful weapon in this fight,” Asset Denial Senior Manager at the NCA, Billy Beattie, said.

According to Reuters, police said about 100 billion pounds ($123 billion) of dirty cash moves through or into Britain every year, buying everything from luxury homes to whole companies.

Leaked troves of financial documents such as the Panama, Paradise, and Pandora Papers have documented London’s role as a global money-laundering hub.

The $23 million was recovered after seven years of litigation and international negotiation pursued by the NCA, at the request of the DOJ, the statement said.

The funds will be transferred to the DOJ.

An NCA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a query about whether the funds would ultimately return to Nigeria.

In the past, countries including the United States and Switzerland had repatriated Abacha loot there.

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