Ex-Finance minister to be quizzed over missing £22.5m

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Ex-Finance minister to be quizzed over missing £22.5m

Ex-Finance minister to be quizzed over missing £22.5m
April 19
06:16 2016

•How U.S. deal was struck, by AGF

A former Minister of Finance may be invited over the missing £22.5 million recovered from the family of the late Gen. Sani Abacha.

The money, which was recovered from the Island of Jersey, could not be traced.

But all legal hurdles for the repatriation of the $480million recovered from the family by the United States have been cleared, Attorney-General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) said last night.

He said the Federal Government will soon receive the funds.

Malami spoke with our correspondent on how he and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Ibrahim Magu convinced the United States to concede the repatriation of the cash.

He said: “We are hopeful that we will soon get the $480million. There are limited things to be put in place by both the U.S. and Nigeria and things are working according to plans.

“To get to this stage, we agreed that any legal impediments should be eliminated. We opened talks with a Nigerian lawyer in the U.S. who had a matter in court over the Abacha funds and the lawyer has keyed into the repatriation process because of the potential benefits to the nation.

“So far, we have cleared the legal hurdles; we will soon have the funds repatriated. Although you can be in control of your own end, the U.S. has also shown tremendous understanding.”

Asked how the deal was struck, Malami said: “It all borders on the appreciation of the anti-corruption agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari by the international community.

“We had fruitful engagement with the U.S. and they showed much understanding. We said the perception at home was that the U.S. was becoming a safe haven for corrupt public office holders. And they proved to us that they are committed to the anti-corruption campaign.

“We told them if we can have understanding with Switzerland and the UAE, they should trust us and support the Federal Government to repatriate these looted funds.

“Therefore, it involved a lot of solicitation, understanding and trust. At the end of the bilateral agreement, the U.S. agreed to release the $480m to us.”

Also yesterday, there were indications that those being probed over the £22.5 million recovered from the Abacha family from Island of Jersey told the EFCC that the Federal Government’s foreign counsel, Erico Monfrini, might have the details of how the loot was repatriated to Nigeria.

Although one of the Nigerian lawyers allegedly collected N20million as legal fees, it was gathered that the government of the Island of Jersey actually asked for a Federal Government account through the foreign counsel to remit the funds.

It was learnt that a former Minister of Finance might be questioned on the whereabouts of the cash.

There were conflicting reports on whether or not the loot was remitted or if it had been spent by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

A source, who pleaded not to be named because he is not allowed to talk on the matter, said: “Some of the suspects questioned on the £22.5m (N6.18billion) have been claiming that the Federal Government should ask its foreign counsel, Erico Monfrini, who facilitated the repatriation of the loot.

“These suspects said the government of the Island of Jersey actually requested for a dedicated account from the Federal Government through the foreign lawyer to pay in the Abacha loot.

“Even the Island of Jersey can assist the Nigerian government on the account the loot was lodged into if it was not a private one.”

Another source explained that a former Minister of Finance might be quizzed over the whereabouts of the £22.5m loot.

“There was certainly a communication between the Government of the Island of Jersey and a former Minister of Finance. The EFCC investigators are probing whether the cash was actually repatriated into the government’s coffers or diverted into a personal account.

“During the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the ex-Minister was said to have declared that the money had been spent.

“The records of the transactions are not just there at all. This development has created much suspicion on the whereabouts of the Abacha loot.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “The EFCC might interrogate the ex-Minister if it cannot trace the records of the repatriation of the loot.”

About three Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been quizzed by the EFCC on the £22.5m (N6.18billion) loot.

According to records, the late Head of State allegedly stashed the funds through a Lebanese called Bhojwani.

But when the Office of the AGF was alerted by a whistle-blower, the Dr. Jonathan administration opened talks with the Attorney-General of the Island of Jersey.

The AG of the Island of Jersey cooperated with the government, leading to the repatriation of the £22.5m.

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