The U.S. has won the right to seize and redistribute nearly half a billion dollars hidden in bank accounts around the world by Gen. Sani Abacha, the former military dictator of Nigeria, the Department of Justice said Thursday.
Officials said the forfeiture of $480 million, which was authorized by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, sets a record for so-called "kleptocracy" actions. The U.S. froze the assets in March.
“Rather than serve his county, General Abacha used his public office in Nigeria to loot millions of dollars, engaging in brazen acts of kleptocracy,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. “With this judgment, we have forfeited $480 million in corruption proceeds that can be used for the benefit of the Nigerian people."
The forfeited assets, from banks in France, Ireland, the U.K. and the Channel Islands, represent the proceeds of corruption during and after the military regime of Gen. Abacha, who became president via military coup on Nov. 17, 1993, and held power until his death on June 8, 1998. According to a Justice Department press release, "The ultimate disposition of the funds will follow the execution of the judgment in each of these jurisdictions."
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A complaint filed in federal court
in 2013 described an intricate conspiracy in which Abacha, his sons and other conspirators allegedly spirited billions out of the country. The U.S. is still seeking another $148 million in funds held in four other U.K. accounts.
First published August 7 2014, 2:24 PM
Gil Aegerter is an editor-producer who came to NBC News in November 2007. Aegerter is responsible for reporting for NBC Newsâ€™ investigations unit and in that role has written about online election fraud in Florida, encryption software for terrorists, solutions for glitches in the Obamacare website and financial woes of small towns that bought into the Prairie State coal-fired power plant in southern lllinois. Aegerter also serves as a news editor and producer of NBCNews.comâ€™s cover.
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Aegerter joined NBCNews.com from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, where he was news editor. In that role, Aegerter was responsible for editing, layout design and production of the news sections.
Prior to his work at the Post-Intelligencer, he was news editor at the Wilmington Star-News, a New York Times-owned newspaper in Wilmington, N.C.; was a sports copy and layout editor at the San Diego Union; and was assistant news editor at the Anchorage Times in Alaska. He also was a researcher for NBC Olympics for Games in Atlanta; Sydney, Australia; Salt Lake City; Athens; and Torino, Italy.
Aegerter is a member of the Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
A graduate of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Aegerter lives in Brier, Wash. He and his wife, a Zimbabwean native, have two children.