The US Department of Justice, DoJ, said the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari is blocking attempts to recover Abacha's loot, located in Kebbi state governor Atiku Bagudu.
The Justice Department filed the complaint in court documents filed with the District Court in the District of Columbia, Washington DC, according to reports by Bloomberg.
Bagudu, who is a close ally of Buhari and a prominent member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was indicted by the U.S. government for helping the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha, transfer billions of dollars in the mid-1990s.
According to Justice Department documents, Bagudu spent six months in federal detention in Texas, pending extradition to the island of Jersey.
However, before being handed over to a criminal trial in Jersey, he quickly agreed to return $ 163 million to Nigeria, and was released on bail for Nigeria, where he was to be prosecuted for money laundering.
However, upon returning to Nigeria, he was released to run for three different electoral cycles, once as a senator and twice as governor, which he won and now enjoys immunity.
In a report published by Bloomberg on Friday, it was stated that the U.S. Department of Justice stated that the Nigerian government is preventing the US from seizing the alleged looting of Bagudu.
“The Department of Justice also claims that the Nigerian government is hampering efforts by the United States to recover money allegedly laundered. The Buhari administration says that a 17-year deal gives Bagudu the funds and prevents Nigeria from helping the United States, according to recent documents from the District of Columbia District Court in Washington, ”the report said.
According to the report, the disagreement could hamper future cooperation between Nigeria and the US to recover state money moved abroad by Abacha, which Transparency International estimates may have looted up to $ 5 billion during his government. 1993-98.
"Nigeria's commitment to transfer funds to Kebbi state governor Abubakar Bagudu appears to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's promise to repress excess sulfur in Africa's main oil producer," the report said.
Bagudu nor a spokesman for the Federation's Attorney General, AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, responded to requests for comment.
A Buhari spokesman, however, said the settlement and the dispute were Malami's business.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Successive Nigerian governments have tried to recover the money looted by Abacha, who died in office, and have so far repatriated more than $ 2 billion, with the cooperation of other countries, according to US court documents.
The Justice Department said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha, which "embezzled, embezzled and extorted billions from the Nigeria government".
Bagudu is the chairman of an influential governing body representing the All Progressives Congress, Buhari's party.
“Despite the confiscation action being initiated after a request from the Nigerian State in 2012, the Buhari government now says it cannot help the United States, because it is linked to an agreement that Bagudu reached with the administration of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2003, according to the judicial processes ”, states the report.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was approved by a UK court, Bagudu returned $ 163 million in allegedly laundered money to the Nigerian authorities, who, in return, withdrew all pending civil and criminal actions against him, “arising from his involvement in government corruption, ”according to an opinion in Judge John D. Bates’s December 23 memorandum in Washington DC
That meant "Nigeria has renounced any interest" in Bagudu's fiduciary assets, including those the United States is trying to recover for the West African country, the opinion said.
Bagudu managed to return to Nigeria after completing the agreement, and was elected as a senator in 2009. Six years later, he was voted governor of Kebbi state, in the elections that brought Buhari and his party to power.
After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 agreement, the Buhari regime reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to court files.
"This would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, in the amount of 141 million (US $ 155 million), to the Nigerian state, which would pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and its affiliates, according to Bates' opinion on 23 December. Funds are currently restricted by the United Kingdom at the request of the US, ”he added.
The government of Nigeria claims that the updated 2018 agreement with the governor of Kebbi state, which requires the court's approval in the UK, "will reduce and reduce its imminent exposure" of the Bagudu trial.
The Buhari administration submitted the 2018 agreement to the UK court in September to support its request to thaw assets so they can be sent to Nigeria, according to the opinion. The court has yet to make a decision.
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