ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria will recover $228 million of funds looted by former military dictator Sani Abacha, the finance ministry said on Thursday, after a 16-year battle to retrieve the stolen money from Liechtenstein.
For years, Abuja’s efforts to get the money back had been stymied by a lawsuit from companies linked to Abacha’s family, alleging infringement of their rights to a fair trial.
Nigeria’s finance minister last year accused Liechtenstein of using legal challenges as a pretext to keep the money stolen by Abacha, who died in 1998.
The dictator stole as much as $5 billion of public money during his five years running Africa’s top oil producer from 1993 to 1998, Transparency International says.
“We can confirm that Nigeria will on June 25, 2014, receive the sum of euro 167 million from the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein, part of looted funds recovered from the Abacha family,” the ministry said in a statement.
The finance ministry had said it was seeking to repatriate 185 million euros ($252 million) of stolen funds. It was not immediately clear if it would repatriate 18 million later on.
Nigeria said it had dropped the case against the Abachas as part of a deal to recover the money and, in turn, the dictator’s family agreed to drop its human rights suit.
Nigeria will invest the money in projects picked by a committee of ministers and monitored by the World Bank. Some of it will go into a fund on behalf of future generations.
Liechtenstein, with banking secrecy laws like its neighbor Switzerland, is seen as an attractive destination for wealth.
Nigeria had recovered about $1.3 billion of Abacha’s money from various European jurisdictions as of last year, with more than a third of that from Switzerland.
Abacha also held money in countries including France, Britain and British offshore centers such as Jersey.
The United States in March said it had frozen more than $458 million of funds that Abacha and his conspirators obtained through corruption and hid in bank accounts around the world.
Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Louise Ireland