Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has recovered more than $23 million allegedly stolen from Nigeria by the country’s late military ruler, General Sani Abacha, it said on Thursday, the latest in a series of similar recoveries around the world.
Abacha ruled Africa’s most populous nation and top oil exporter from 1993 until his death in 1998, a period during which he was alleged to have stolen up to $5 billion of public money, according to Transparency International. He was never charged.
The money recovered in Britain forms part of a larger pool of funds identified by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as having been misappropriated by Abacha and his associates, the NCA said in a statement.
“The NCA is committed to ensuring that the UK is not a safe haven for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime, and civil recovery of assets is a powerful weapon in this fight,” said Billy Beattie, Asset Denial Senior Manager at the NCA.
Police say about 100 billion pounds ($123 billion) of dirty cash moves through or into Britain every year, buying everything from luxury homes to whole companies.
Leaked troves of financial documents such as the Panama, Paradise and Pandora Papers have documented London’s role as a global money-laundering hub.
The $23 million were recovered after seven years of litigation and international negotiation pursued by the NCA, at the request of the DOJ, the statement said. The funds will be transferred to the DOJ.
An NCA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a query about whether the funds would ultimately return to Nigeria. In the past, countries including the United States and Switzerland have repatriated Abacha loot there.