Abacha son arrested on Swiss warrant

Sani Abacha is said to have siphoned off $3 billion in funds Keystone

The Swiss justice ministry has confirmed reports that German police have arrested the son of the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, on a Swiss warrant.

This content was published on January 8, 2005 - 16:00

The ministry said Bern was seeking the extradition of Abba Abacha - whose father is said to have stashed millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts - on alleged money laundering charges.

Abacha was arrested in December at the request of the Geneva justice authorities, said ministry spokesman Folco Galli on Saturday.

The statement confirms an earlier report by German magazine Der Spiegel , which said that Abacha was arrested in the western city of Neuss after trying to withdraw money from a German account.

He is being held on charges of money laundering and fraud in relation to the millions of dollars that were frozen in Swiss bank accounts as part of an investigation into his father's finances.

"Abacha will be extradited to Switzerland and tried in Geneva, unless he manages to prevent this with legal proceedings," said Galli.

Geneva-based prosecutor Daniel Dumartheray said the Swiss authorities would soon begin negotiations regarding Abba Abacha's extradition to Switzerland.

A spokesman for the German state prosecutor's office said a decision about what to do with Abacha would be taken later this month.

"The Swiss authorities have 40 days, until January 17, to present the necessary documents. Then the upper state court will decide whether to extradite him," he said.

Criminal origin

Last August Switzerland said it would hand back to Nigeria SFr622 million ($500 million) belonging to Sani Abacha and his family. The authorities said most of the money was of “criminal origin”.

The move was a milestone in the six-year search for up to an estimated $3 billion in assets allegedly embezzled and transferred abroad by the late dictator.

The SFr622 million ($500 million) was part of the $700 million frozen by the Swiss authorities in 1999 after Nigeria asked for assistance in investigating the financial network said to have been set up by Sani Abacha.

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

Sani Abacha’s family has appealed against the latest Swiss decision to hand over funds to Nigeria.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to Nigeria, Abacha siphoned off $3 billion in funds.
In Switzerland, SFr870 million ($700 million) of this missing money has been found.
The Swiss will give back the money in two stages: around $200 million has already been handed over; $500 million is still to come.

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