The United States authorities said it will resume legal proceedings to seize over $150 million (N84 billion) allegedly laundered by Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, Bloomberg reports.
The US alleged that the governor was part of network controlled by former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha who allegedly “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”
An estimate of $5billion is said to have been stolen from Nigeria during Abacha’s five-year rule.
Bagudu was elected a senator in 2009 and the governor of Kebbi State six years later.
His brother identified as Ibrahim, who is entitled to an annuity from the assets, is challenging the forfeiture in a federal court in Washington.
US authorities and the Bagudu family obtained a stay of the judgement in 2020 to enable the parties to negotiate a resolution but with no agreement reached, the case is set to resume, according to court documents dated March 2.
Ibrahim is, however, optimistic that an out-of-court settlement is still possible with US and UK government officials.
A UK court had frozen the family’s investment portfolios in 2014 following a request from the U.S
The Nigerian government in 2019 said it is unable to assist the US in the case. It claimed it is bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with a previous Nigerian government in 2003.
Bagudu’s agreement with the Nigerian government reportedly allowed him to return $163 million to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him, according to court filings.
In 2018, Nigeria government under President Muhammadu Buhari and Bagudu had a new agreement in 2018 for the ownership of the investment portfolios worth 141 million euros ($154 million) in late 2019 transferred to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to U.S. court documents.
Buhari’s administration has since applied to the U.K. court to unfreeze the assets.
US Department of Justice in February 2020 said it requested the Nigerian government to withdraw litigation it had commenced in the U.K. that was hindering its efforts to forfeit laundered funds held in Bagudu’s name.
US authorities in return opposed plans by the Nigerian government to give $100 million from loots recovered from Abacha to Bagudu.
DoJ said Bagudu was involved in corruption with the late Abacha who Transparency International (TI) said may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule in Nigeria.
It accused the Nigerian government of hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it said was traced to Bagudu.