Asset Recovery Watch

ARW-167
Sani Abacha / Swiss Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Case
Nigeria
President (1993-1998)
Switzerland
Undertaking Recovery Effort, Location of Recovery Effort, Asset Location / Alleged Asset Location
1998
2007
Art.16, Art.17, Art.19, Art.20, Art.23
Yes
Actions Initiated by Foreign Jurisdiction
MLAT
MLAT
"Thanks to the thorough investigation in the Geneva domestic criminal proceedings, the criminal origin of the funds was clearly demonstrated." (Source: Enrico Monfrini, "The Abacha Case," in Mark Pieth, ed., Recovering Stolen Assets [Peter Lang, 2008]).
Completed
Assets Returned to Victim or Requesting Jurisdiction
$723,000,000
Yes
Part of worldwide settlement with recovered funds to be used to fund projects in the health, education, water, electricity and road sectors; monitoring responsibility held by the World Bank. (Source: "Utilization of Repatriated Abacha Loot, Results of the Field Monitoring Exercise," Report Prepared by the World Bank with Cooperation from the Federal Ministry of Finance (December 2006)).

According to the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, $700 million were returned to Nigeria.  (Source: Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 30, 2009; see also, The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation, "Out-of-court settlement in the Abacha case - Nigeria to receive more than a billion USD; The countries concerned cooperate in the implementation of the settlement," April 17, 2002.)  In 2001, the Abacha family and associates reached an agreement with the Nigerian government to release $1.3 billion frozen in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg in exchange for being able to keep $100 million. According to Attorney Enrico Monfrini (lawyer for Nigeria), "Thanks to the thorough investigation in the Geneva domestic criminal proceedings, the criminal origin of the funds was clearly demonstrated...On 19 August 2004, the Federal Office of Justice agreed to transmit to Nigeria all the assets in Switzerland beneficially owned by the Abacha family, waiving the condition of a prior judicial forfeiture decision in Nigeria,"  This decision was upheld for the most part by the Swiss Supreme Court in February 2005.  The Abacha family did not "attempt to reverse the presumption by proving that the balance of the attached funds was not of criminal origin."  (Source: Enrico Monfrini, "The Abacha Case," in Mark Pieth, ed., Recovering Stolen Assets [Peter Lang, 2008]; See also, Chronology and related court documents in the Abacha case in ICC FraduNet, at http://www.icc-ccs.org/home/resources/118-leading-cases/697-abacha-case).

Update (December 2017): According to the MOU between Nigeria, Switzerland, and the World Bank, signed in December 2017, Switzerland had returned $723 million to Nigeria by 2005. Based on this, the total amount of retruned assets for this case entry was updated from $700 million to $723 million. Also see ARW-250. 

According to a 2008 article by Attorney Enrico Monfrini, an appeal was pending before the Nigerian Supreme Court in the criminal cases arising from charges filed in 2000 and 2001 against Mr. Abacha's sons and associate. (Source: Enrico Monfrini, "The Abacha Case," in Mark Pieth, ed., Recovering Stolen Assets (Peter Lang, 2008), accessed at http://www.mcswisslaw.com/pages_e/2008%20Monfrini%20-%20The%20Abacha%20C....

Special Panel established to investigate Abacha looting
Federal Office of Justice
Monfrini Crettol & Partners (Attorneys Enrico Monfrini and Yves Klein) - asset recovery
Geneva Canton Courts