Posted by By Ise-Oluwa Ige on
MOHAMMED Abacha eldest surviving son of late Gen Sani Abacha yesterday approached the Supreme Court in Abuja to abort an on-going endeavor by the Federal Government to recover from him and 19 others, over $800million US dollars kept in various bank accounts in five foreign countries.
ABUJA—MOHAMMED Abacha eldest surviving son of late Gen Sani Abacha yesterday approached the Supreme Court in Abuja to abort an on-going endeavor by the Federal Government to recover from him and 19 others, over $800million US dollars kept in various bank accounts in five foreign countries.
He told newsmen yesterday that he came before the apex court as a last resort, since all efforts made by him and 19 others to reclaim the trapped funds in the foreign accounts were to no avail.
The over $800million US dollars in question were allegedly deposited in various bank accounts in a total five foreign countries by late Head of State, Gen Abacha in the names of his son, Mohammed and 19 corporate institutions before his death.
By virtue of an arrangement called ‘‘mutual international assistance,’’ all the foreign accounts were requested to be frozen by the Federal Government via letters to the five foreign countries on the grounds that they were looted public funds.
The foreign countries where the said looted public funds were kept by the Abacha family and cronies include the United Kingdom, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
According to Mohammed, he had made spirited efforts to defreeze all the affected accounts but that the relevant authourites of all the foreign countries where the accounts were kept failed to cooperate with him.
Although his lawyers spoke for him all through, Mohammed was reacting, yesterday, to a recent judgment by the Court of Appeal, Abuja, dismissing a civil suit instituted by him and the 19 others to challenge the Federal Government over the mutual international assistance it sought to cause their various foreign accounts frozen.
His counsel, Messrs Abdullahi Haruna and Reuben Atabor who spoke yesterday with newsmen on behalf of Mohammed said that they have filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal which dismissed their case.
A copy of the notice of appeal filed and made available to Vanguard listed three grounds upon which the court of appeal decision is being challenged including that:
The lower court below erred in law in proceeding to consider and apply the provisions of the Public Officers Protection Act after holding that the suit disclosed no cause of action and the proper order to make upon finding that the suit discloses no cause of action is to strike out the suit and not dismiss it.
The panel of three justices of the court of appeal, Abuja which sat on their appeal held unanimously that the entire case as instituted by the Abacha family and 19 others, lacked merit, ought to be dismissed and accordingly dismissed.
A cost of N10,000 was even awarded against the Abacha family and his cronies who initiated the appeal.
The three-member panel which decided the case was headed by Justice Mary Peter Odilli. Other members of the panel were Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour
It would be recalled that a Federal high court judge, Justice Stephen Jonah Adah had similarly dismissed the entire case when it came before him on the grounds that the suit was incompetent and that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action.
But the Abacha family, dissatisfied with the high court verdict, went on appeal only to lose again.
By implication, it was the second time a competent court of law would throw out the request by the Abacha family to stop the Federal Government from seeking mutual international assistance from the United Kingdom, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland to freeze various accounts maintained by them within their jurisdictions.
The fact of the case is that the government of General Abdusalami Abubakar which succeeded the government of the late Gen Sani Abacha recovered huge sums of money exceeding US $800million in total from the Abacha family and its close associates.
The recoveries were detailed in Decree No 53 of the 1999. When the country returned to civil rule on May 29, 1999 with a change in the baton of leadership in the country, President Olusegun Obasanjo immediately set in motion the process of recovering some of such monies from the family of the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha and their associates.
Criminal investigations in Nigeria traced a whopping amount of stolen public funds to a number of foreign countries including Switzerland, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Jersey.
Because it was impossible for Nigeria to confiscate the stolen funds, being outside jurisdiction, without the permission and co-operation of those countries, the Federal Government through the Office of the Federation Attorney-General had to write letters to the said foreign countries including the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, United Kingdom and Attorney-General of Jersey requesting for assistance to confirm its findings and freeze the affected foreign accounts, if true.
All the letters, requesting for such assistances, were written between December 20, 1999 and July 2000.
The foreign governments concerned acted on the letters as they duly investigated the allegations and their findings indicted 90 related companies including those that joined the Abacha family in Nigeria to stop the Federal Government from confiscating their monies in the said foreign accounts.
Some of those indicted companies include Sulgrave Holding Inc, Raw Material Development and Trading Companies Limited, Technical Management Services Limited, Allied Network Limited, Blue Rock Properties, Olmar Establishments, Peltoria Establishments and Glotar Establishments.
Others include Rike Limited, Warnbeck Holdings, Arwood Overseas, Larberidge Investments and six others.
Specifically, the findings from the criminal investigations undertaken by the said foreign governments of UK, Switzerland, Jersey, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein established that the 90 related companies including those that came to court in Nigeria with a number of foreign banks were involved in an intricate web of money laundering and deception.
Following the findings, members of the Abacha family and their associates were charged to court for sundry offences in some of the jurisdictions mentioned above.
Convictions were recorded against some of the persons mentioned and the accounts of those involved in the monetary deals were frozen through judicial processes in those countries.
Some of the accounts frozen belonged to those who came for judicial reliefs before a Nigerian high court in Abuja.
At home here, Mohammed Abacha was also charged by the Federal Government to court alongside its close associate, Bagudu, on a 33-count charge of stealing, fraud and sundry offences, all connected with the alleged looted funds.
The actions of the various foreign governments were challenged in those countries by the Abacha family but the verdicts handed down were unfavourable to the Abachas.
Various other suits were filed in various Nigerian courts including the instant case by the Abacha family to frustrate moves by the Federal Government to confiscate all the monies stashed in the various foreign accounts.
The instant one was filed 13 months after the Federal Government took its decision to formally write the foreign countries for mutual international assistance to recover the alleged looted funds.
The case was however dismissed at the court of first instance presided over by Justice Jonah Adah on the grounds that it was statute barred, incompetent and that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action.
A panel of three justices of the court of appeal sitting in Abuja, a couple of days ago, also affirmed the decision of the lower court.
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