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Abacha's son, Abba, flown to Switzerland for trial

Posted by By Collins Edomaruse on 2005/04/18 | Views: 1004 |

Abacha's son, Abba, flown to Switzerland for trial


Abba, the second son of the late military leader General Sani Abacha, was flown into Switzerland yesterday to face charges of money laundering, the leader of the Swiss prosecution team that handled the Abacha case, Pascal Gossin, has said in Bern, Switzerland.

Bern, Switzerland
Swiss official: Outstanding family loot to be paid to Nigeria soon

Abba, the second son of the late military leader General Sani Abacha, was flown into Switzerland yesterday to face charges of money laundering, the leader of the Swiss prosecution team that handled the Abacha case, Pascal Gossin, has said in Bern, Switzerland.

Also, plans have almost been concluded by the Swiss government to formally release to Nigeria the outstanding $458 million Abacha loot, following directives to that effect by the country's Supreme Court.

Speaking to visiting Nigerian and Ghanaian journalists on a fact-finding visit to Switzerland, Gossin, who is also Head of the Section for Mutual Legal Assistance at the country's Federal Department of Justice, said Abba was extradited to Switzerland yesterday from Germany where he has been detained since his arrest on December 9, 2004.

He was arrested in Neuss, Germany, while allegedly attempting to close an account of which he was the sole signatory. But before he could complete the transaction, German authorities were alerted by the Deutsche Bank branch in Essen.

Pressed to give information on the latest development in the case involving Abba, the attorney reluctantly said: "Abba has been extradited to Switzerland. He was extradited today (yesterday). He was arrested in Germany based on the warrant of arrest order issued by a judge in Switzerland."

He described the development as a step in the right direction and said Abba would soon face justice as formal charges would be preferred against him by the authorities.

Although, he did not disclose when the trial would begin, but feelers from government officials who were at the Bellevue Hotel, Bern to interract with the journalists over the news of the extradition, showed that the Swiss authorities were rather in a hurry to get the Abacha debacle behind them as soon as possible.

The account, over which Abba was arrested last year, is one of the many foreign bank accounts owned by members of the Abacha family under security watch.

Apparently trying to ensure that he beat the Federal Government to that account which was yet to be uncovered at the time of his arrest, Abba quietly sneaked out of Nigeria to Germany.

Sources informed the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) finance department that Abba travelled incognito. His passport was said to be carrying a fake name, and this enabled him beat the security network at the airport. On arrival, sources said, he entered into a deal with a top manager of the bank.

Unknown to Abba, he was being set up. The manager played along with him until the last minute. Abba volunteered to part with ten percent of the total amount of money in his account. On the day he was supposed to withdraw all the money, he came to the bank and met his supposed collaborator, and they concluded plans on how to transfer the money. But unknown to Abba, the bank had been cordoned off by security operatives. He was promptly arrested and detained in Germany

Gossin denied allegations that the remainder of the recovered Abacha loot was systematically being delayed by the Swiss government as a result of an intelligence report that the authorities were looking at an option of defraying the indebtedness arising from some latter day failed business transactions between Swiss nationals and some Nigerians. "Nigerians should understand that the matter we are talking about involves government-to-government. We cannot be involved in businesses that were contracted privately between private individuals of both countries

"Our commitment to the fight against corruption is total and Nigerians should remember that $200 million has been released to the government of Nigeria in various tranches

"In the process of prosecuting the Abacha case, several Swiss banks and some individuals were charged. We should be commended," he said.

Asked when the money would specifically be released, he said: "The Swiss government cannot keep it. There are some technical details that should be trashed out before it will be given to the International Bank for Settlement for onward delivery to Nigeria.

"Part of the technicalities is that some of the money were put into shares and into other instruments like bonds. The banks need time to sell these in a proper way to ensure that you (Nigeria) don't lose money in the process . All this must be calculated by the banks to ensure that no party is cheated. We have no other condition and none will be set for the return.

"We are aware that the money has been built into this year's budget. We'll do it, we'll obey the court order and there are no other things to do. The main problem (litigation) is over."

He restated his country's new resolve against money laundering, corruption and other crimes and said that "Switzerland is no longer a place to hide illegal funds."

Funds embezzled by the Abacha family include several millions of Deutsche Marks paid in bribes by the steel group, Essen Ferrostaal, in connection with the building of an aluminium factory in Nigeria.

Nigeria believes that Abacha, who died in 1998, siphoned over $2.2 billion which he invested in several countries, including Britain and Switzerland.

Switzerland returned $200 million to Nigeria at the end of 2003 following settlements between parties to the money and the Nigerian authorities, as well as seizure orders issued by the prosecutor's office in Geneva.

An out-of-court agreement between Nigeria and the Abacha family was reached in May, 2002. It was agreed that the late general's family could keep $100 million provided that his son signed an agreement enabling foreign banks in Switzerland and elsewhere to return to Nigeria a further $1 billion of the allegedly looted money.

The deal was apparently linked to the release from prison of Abacha's first son, Mohammed, ending his three-year sojourn behind bars on charges of embezzlement.

Suspicions that the deal went awry arose when Mohammed, upon his release, was quoted as saying that he had made no commitment to sign anything.

Throughout this long affair, President Olusegun Obasanjo faced a no-win situation.

He was condemned by some persons for negotiating a deal with the Abachas.

At the same time, Abacha's supporters slammed the President for detaining Mohammed for so long on what they said were spurious charges.

After the initial legal stalemate, Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice temporarily lifted the lid on the country's banking secrecy and handed over bank documents concerning relatives of the former dictator.

In return, Nigeria assured the Swiss that the rights of Abacha family members would be respected in the event that they would be tried before a court or face criminal proceedings. Obasanjo and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had at different fora said the returned funds would be used for health, education, roads and other projects "to help rural and poor people".

Apart from Switzerland, Nigeria also asked for help in tracing looted assets in Germany, Britain, the Canal Islands, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown