Swiss court to hear Abacha appeal

Sani Abacha's stashed billions are proving difficult to bring home Keystone Archive

Switzerland's federal court is to hear an appeal by the family of the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha.

This content was published on September 26, 2002 - 08:37

The family wants to prevent Switzerland from sharing information with Nigeria, which is seeking the return of millions stashed abroad by Abacha.

Swiss authorities said the court would hear the case after an out-of-court settlement between Nigeria and the Abacha family collapsed.

Under the agreement, Nigeria was expected to receive $1 billion from banks in Switzerland and other countries, while the Abacha family would have been allowed to keep $100 million, banked before the former dictator came to power.

But Pascal Gossin, head of international legal cooperation at the Swiss Justice Ministry, said attorneys for Nigerian authorities had informed the ministry that the terms of the settlement had not been fulfilled.

Documents not signed

A Swiss lawyer acting for Nigeria was quoted as saying that the deal had collapsed because Abacha's son Mohammed had failed to sign the necessary documents.

Switzerland had been poised to hand over $535 million in blocked funds to the Nigerian government. All transfers of information or funds will cease until the court has ruled on the case.

The money in question was frozen in 1999 after Nigeria asked Switzerland to help investigate the financial network allegedly set up by Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death of an apparent heart attack in 1998.


The Abacha case proved a particular embarrassment for Switzerland because of the amount of money involved and the fact that much of it found its way into banks after the introduction of a 1998 law meant to clamp down on money laundering.

Mohammed Abacha was released from prison in Nigeria on Monday, after three years behind bars awaiting trial for allegedly embezzling billions of dollars in state funds.

President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered Abacha freed after negotiations with officials from Abacha's home state of Kano.

Obasanjo's government had come under intense pressure in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north to release the late dictator's son ahead of next year's presidential vote.


Abacha facts

An out-of-court settlement between Nigeria and the Abacha family collapsed.
That deal would have allowed the return of $1 billion to Nigeria.
The Abacha family is trying to prevent Swiss-Nigeria cooperation.

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