On Monday, 3 February 2020, the Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate more than US$300 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria.
The funds were laundered through the U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha. In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington D.C. forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State.
This case is a result of extensive cooperation between the Jersey authorities, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with crucial assistance from other governments around the world.
The tripartite agreement signed this week represents a major watershed in international cooperation in asset recovery and repatriation, and will provide benefit to people throughout Nigeria.
The projects on which the funds will be expended will be administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and independently audited. The Federal Republic of Nigeria will establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress. The Nigerian government, in consultation with the other Parties, will also engage Civil Society Organisations, who have expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.
The Solicitor General and Attorney General designate of Jersey, Mark Temple QC, who signed the Agreement on behalf of Jersey, commented:
“This Agreement represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by Law Officers in Jersey, the United States and Nigeria. The return of the assets to Nigeria had been delayed by a number of hard-fought challenges by third parties which were defeated in the Courts in Jersey and the United States.
“The Agreement establishes a framework based on fruitful co-operation, trust and respect so that the forfeited funds can be repatriated to benefit the people of Nigeria, from whom they had been taken. The use of the funds will be subject to monitoring and reporting obligations.
“This is a very significant achievement, and, once again, demonstrates Jersey’s commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.”
Jersey’s Minister for External Relations, Senator Ian Gorst, said:
“Since becoming aware that the alleged proceeds of Abacha corruption and money laundering had passed through Jersey financial institutions, the Jersey authorities have done everything within their power to investigate what happened and to return the money to its rightful owners, the people of Nigeria.
“I would like to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the dedicated team within the Law Officers’ Department, and their colleagues in United States and Nigeria. Their excellent level of cooperation in the fight against corruption, at domestic and international levels, should be an example for other jurisdictions to follow.
“As a leading international finance centre with an effective and robust regulatory regime, Jersey has a responsibility to firmly address any instances of alleged money laundering and corruption. Our commitment to seeing these funds repatriated has led to a positive outcome for the people of Nigeria, has established lasting partnerships and given us a pioneering role in asset-recovery that is based on the principles of national interest, trust and mutual respect.”
The full press release can be read here on the Government of Jersey’s website.