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Switzerland returns $380 million in Abacha money to Nigeria

17 March 2015, 17:36

Abuja - Switzerland will return to Nigeria some $380 million (360 million euros) linked to ex-dictator Sani Abacha, Geneva's public prosecutor said Tuesday, adding that it was closing a 16-year case on the funds.

Abacha ruled oil-rich Nigeria with an iron fist from 1993 until he died in 1998. The economy grew under his rule, though he was seen as extremely corrupt and faced criticism over his human rights abuses in the oil-rich nation.

The decision to return the funds follows a July 2014 deal between Nigeria and the Abacha family.

Under the agreement, the funds would be confiscated and returned to Nigeria, while Abuja would drop its case against the deceased dictator's son Abba Abacha.

Also read: 'Jonathan's economic policies similar to Abacha's regime'

The $380 million had been placed in several accounts abroad that were controlled by the Abacha family, which is considered a criminal organisation, the Geneva prosecutors' office said in a statement.

The money was seized in 2006 in Luxembourg, under orders from the Swiss authorities.

The Abacha family had also placed some $500 million (530 million euros) in Swiss banks, though those funds have already been returned to Nigeria.

The $380 million will be returned under the World Bank's supervision, said the prosecutor's office.

The authorities have also decided to drop their case against Abba Abacha, which began in 1999.

In 2012, the dictator's son was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence for participating in a criminal organisation.

Switzerland's top court cancelled the sentence in May 2014, citing procedural reasons.

The Geneva prosecutor's office on Tuesday said Abba Abacha has already been detained for 561 days from 2004 to 2006, without receiving compensation.

The Abacha affair began in 1999, when Nigeria asked the Swiss judicial authorities to help it recover $2.2 billion ($2 billion euros) embezzled and siphoned off by Sani Abacha while he was in power.

- AP

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