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World Bank to help Nigeria recover 185m euro Abacha loot

By The Rainbow
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Nigeria is working with the World Bank to recover about 185 million euros transferred to some commercial banks in Liecttenstein in Central Europe by the General Sani Abacha regime through some shell companies, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.

.Speaking on efforts by the government to repatriate the funds which she said would be used to finance rural development projects across the country, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi

Okonjo-Iweala  said the recovery efforts began about 14 years ago under President Olusegun Obasanjo when about $500 million were also repaid by banks in Switzerland.

The minister, who spoke in Washington at the IMF/ World Bank 2013 Annual Meeting, said that the Federal Government had been pressurizing the authorities of the tiny European country to repatriate the money, which she said would used to finance rural development in Nigeria.

She said, 'We have been pursuing this money in Liechtenstein and this is part of the legacy of the Abacha monies that were taken out of the country. There has been several steps, through a lawyer, who has been working on this case as well as other cases of lost Abacha money. 'But the essence is that we identified this money in Liechtenstein, through our lawyer, Mr. Erico Monfrini of Switzerland. He first started under President Obasanjo's administration and now credit to President Goodluck Jonathan who has been pursuing it in the last few years with the same lawyer. 'The Attorney General of the Federation has also been working on this. In fact, they were working before I joined and the idea is that there has been several legal steps and challenges that have been thrown in Liechtenstein courts against returning this money,' she said. The minister said the money was sent in through some front companies, some shell companies that were opened up in Liechtenstein and then transferred through those companies into Liechtenstein banks, stressing that the beneficiaries were really General Abacha's companies. She stated that at the time the funds were identified nearly 14 years ago, several legal steps were taken to get them back, noting that the companies or their representatives have always thrown legal challenges every step of the way. She explained that it got to a stage where the courts in Liechtenstein had mitigated and said it should be returned. However, while this was happening, the companies took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, saying that the Liechtenstein government violated their human rights by allowing the money to be taken away from them. She stated that taking the case to court meant another two or three years delay, an indication that the country was just employing delay tactics to keep the money since they would be earning interest on it.. Okonjo-Iewala said another obstacle the Liechtenstein government created was to ask us to sign a guarantee that if the European Court of Human Rights fines them for any reason, Nigeria would indemnify them.