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Theft charges dropped against Abachas's son: lawyer

18 June 2014, 22:11

Lagos - Nigeria on Wednesday dropped theft charges against a son of former military dictator Sani Abacha, his lawyer said, after Liechtenstein announced that it would return millions looted by his father.

"The attorney general, at his absolute discretion, filed a notice of withdrawal this morning," Haruna Abdullahi, who represented Mohammed Abacha at the court in Abuja, told AFP by telephone.

Under Nigerian law, once the attorney general decides to discontinue proceedings, the court has to abide by the decision and drop the case, he added.

Mohammed Abacha had been accused of unlawfully receiving more than 450 million naira ($2.7 million, 2.0 million euros) of government money during his father's iron-fisted rule between 1993 and 1998.

The United States announced on March 5 that it had ordered a freeze on $458 million stolen by the general and his accomplices and hidden in European accounts in Britain, France and Jersey.

Acting US assistant attorney general Mythili Raman said at the time: "General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled millions from the people of Nigeria while millions lived in poverty."

Nigeria has since requested the money be returned.

Also on Wednesday, Liechtenstein announced that it would return $227 million to Nigeria, ending protracted legal action in the tiny European principality by four companies linked to Abacha's family.

General Abacha, who died in office, is suspected of having looted Nigeria's central bank to the tune of $2.2 billion and his family's companies were ordered in 2008 to repay the cash.

The repayment follows an agreement between Vaduz and Abuja which resulted in the firms withdrawing their complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mohammed Abacha's lawyer said that his client was no longer facing any criminal cases in Nigeria and added: "He's very pleased. He was in court and he's happy.

"As far as I am concerned, this should be the end of the matter. We are just grateful for the discretion that the attorney general has shown."

Abdullahi added that he had "no insight into why the decision may have been made".

Mohammed Abacha has previously harboured political ambitions and in February 2011 qualified as a candidate for the state governorship of his northern Kano home state.

The state was won by Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is now a leading figure in the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and has been seen as a potential presidential candidate at next year's elections.

The APC is expected to challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan at the February 14, 2015 poll.



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