Ireland has committed to returning some €5.5 million, or $6.5 million, to Nigeria that was looted out from the West African country by former military leader Sani Abacha.
A memorandum of understanding was signed last Thursday to this effect. At the weekend, Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee, said the reversal of the funds is “the first time that Ireland has taken such action and will be a concrete demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption”.
Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau has been investigating dubious sources of international transactions for years. These investigations have led to the freezing of more than $1 billion.
Nigeria approached Ireland in 2014 about the funds Abacha had saved in Ireland. In 2015, a high court in Ireland ordered the forfeiture of assets which meant that the country had to return the money to Nigeria.
Abacha, who presided over a repressive government between 1993 and 1998, stole more than $1 billion from oil-rich Nigeria. He died of a sudden heart in office.
The process of recovering monies stolen by Abacha has been an arduous task for Nigeria, sometimes threatening its relationship with other countries.
In May of this year, Nigeria confirmed the receipt of more than $311 million of funds stolen by Abacha. This followed an agreement by the United States and the British dependency of Jersey in February, to return the stashed monies.
Nigeria also said it had discovered another $319 million of cash looted in France and the United Kingdom. According to the statement, $152m of the amount is being argued in court.
The rest of the funds, $167 million, is split between France and the UK while the contested $152 million is in the UK alone.