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."