Draft statement regarding recent Premium Times’ special report titled “Nigeria risks losing N218 billion Abacha Loot as Justice Minister Malami, US-based attorney, battle.”
A recent media report published by the online media services organization – Premiumtimesng.com – has portrayed a false and inaccurate view of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s efforts to recover, from the United States, the assets corruptly obtained by late dictator General Sani Abacha and his cohorts.
Despite our efforts to correct the record, the report misrepresented the nature of our efforts and our role in the recovery of the said assets.
Further, the report completely mischaracterizes the dubious roles played by its progenitor – Godson Nnaka.
This report relies on fictions, suppositions, stereotypes and inaccuracies, and plays on the public’s lack of familiarity with the process of asset forfeiture and recovery under United States law.
The unfortunate irony is that the materials and information on which the report is based actually show that Godson Nnaka has not earned any of the fees he claims and that more than anything else, his self-centered and ill-advised actions are holding the Nigerian people to ransom and unnecessarily depriving them of the forfeited funds.
We would like to take this opportunity to address some specific misconceptions about our role in securing the return of the Abacha loot from the United States and clarify the blatant inaccuracies rife in the report.
B. FORFEITURE AND RECOVERY OF ASSETS UNDER UNITED STATES LAW
The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), which is akin to Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Justice), launched a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative which is spearheaded by the USDOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS).
It comprises a competent team of attorneys, investigators and other experts dedicated to investigating and prosecuting asset recovery cases, recovering stolen assets and returning same to those victimized by corruption.
Since 2004, the USDOJ has confiscated and returned over $168 million to victims abroad.
Under United States law, asset forfeiture (or confiscation) works in the following manner. The USDOJ identifies stolen/corruptly-obtained assets.
It then institutes legal proceedings known as forfeiture proceedings to confiscate such assets.
At the end of the forfeiture proceedings, the court orders the assets confiscated to the United States.
Thereupon, the United States returns the assets to the foreign country from which the assets were stolen.
Under this initiative, the USDOJ has recovered and returned $20 million to the government of Peru; #117 million to Italy; and $2.7 million to Nicaragua.
In 2013, as part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the USDOJ commenced a forfeiture proceeding to confiscate approximately $550 million that had been corruptly obtained by late General Abacha and his associates (the “Abacha Case”).
A portion of the Abacha loot, valued at $458 million, has now been forfeited to the United States. On December 17, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment forfeiting certain Abacha assets valued at $458 million.
The forfeiture proceeding as to those assets is therefore concluded and the forfeited assets are ripe for repatriation to the innocent victim – Nigeria.
However, Godson Nnaka has filed an appeal against the judgment of forfeiture falsely claiming to be entitled to a portion of the assets as compensation for legal services allegedly rendered to Nigeria.
As will be discussed below his claim is untrue.
The USDOJ has represented to us that the appeal is the only issue delaying repatriation of the forfeited assets to Nigeria.
They have explained that the forfeited assets are not located in the United States and that only upon disposition of the appeal would the United States then have a final judgment upon which it can seek the retrieval of the forfeited assets which are frozen in multiple foreign jurisdictions and return same to Nigeria.
The forfeiture of the remaining $100 million in assets is still pending.
The forfeiture of these assets is being contested by the certain individuals, who are related to Atiku Bagudu (General Abacha’s associate) and who claim that these assets are the subject matter of a private family trust. In this regard, we are cooperating with the USDOJ by providing them with the documents, information, witnesses and other evidence required to secure expeditious forfeiture of this portion of the Abacha loot.
It is clearly obvious that the
C. GODSON NNAKA’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE ABACHA CASE
Before we clarify the nature Godson Nnaka’s participation in the Abacha Case, it is important to his consider his background and credibility.
1. GODSON NNAKA’S BACKGROUND
In 2008, Nnaka was disbarred by the Court of Appeals of Maryland for misconduct, including: