U.S. To Resolve Lawsuit Filed To Have N30Milllion Abacha Loot Transferred To Tinubu’s Minister, Bagudu Instead Of Nigerian Government

The United States has expressed its willingness to resolve the lawsuit filed against the return of funds looted by the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha.


This signals the potential transfer of yet another $30 million to Atiku Bagudu, President Bola Tinubu’s controversial budget and national planning minister.


In August 2023, SaharaReporters reported that the former Kebbi State governor who allegedly stole and laundered billions of dollars on behalf of Sani Abacha, the late infamous military dictator who ruled Nigeria from November 1993 till his sudden death in June 1998, was among the 19 new ministerial nominees in the second batch sent in by President Tinubu.


According to the Peoples Gazette, the assets of Doraville Properties, run by the Bagudus on the British island of Jersey and domiciled with Deutsche Bank, have been identified as stolen from the Nigerian treasury.


Filings seen by Peoples Gazette showed American authorities and Mr Bagudu, represented by his brother Ibrahim Bagudu, stipulated in a January 5, 2024, joint status report to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. that an agreement had been reached by the parties over funds trapped in a bank account linked to the Bagudus.


The assets of Doraville Properties, run by the Bagudus, have been identified as stolen from the Nigerian treasury during the military junta of the 90s, the report said.


“Plaintiff had circulated proposed settlement documents to the parties. Over the past two months, the parties have reviewed and exchanged comments and edits to those papers,” the January 5 update to the court said. “The proposed settlement, as detailed in prior filings, would also involve the resolution of two related actions in the United Kingdom.”


“Given the multifaceted nature of the resolution, further time is required for the parties to receive and review documents specific to the UK proceedings from their foreign counterparts and for the parties to finalise and receive authority to execute all of the settlement documents,” the parties added.


Previously unclaimed, it was slated to be refunded before Mr Bagudu began laying claims to it, having originally been part of the callous corruption that assailed the military regime of Sani Abacha.


An amicus argument entered in the case on January 18 by U.S.-based Nigerian lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe suggested that at least $30 million would be paid to the Nigerian budget minister and his family members, who have fought for decades to keep the loot traced to them following Mr Abacha’s death in 1998.


The U.S. State Department, led by Mr Antony Blinken who was recently in Nigeria, is a major party to the efforts to seize illicit assets from the Bagudus for onward return to the Nigerian people.


In a similar case brewing in France, French sources informed The Gazette in December that Mr Bagudu was preventing the repatriation of $150 million in Abacha loot to Nigeria, with officials further adding that he wanted a $30 million cut from the fund.


Peoples Gazette noted that Mr Bagudu did not return a request seeking comments about the latest settlement in the separate U.S. case. But he had previously claimed that only his family members were involved.


Mr Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, had said he was fighting to keep the loot because his brother, Atiku, had put the money in a trust fund for the family. The U.S. government rejected that argument, saying beneficiaries need not be complicit for proceeds of fraud to be forfeited.


In the latest joint status report, the parties revealed their pursuit of a court-supervised settlement to conserve resources. The proposed settlement includes the resolution of related actions in the United Kingdom, adding complexity to the negotiations and necessitating an extension of the stay until March 8, 2024.


A federal judge approved a new deadline of March 8 for all parties to finalise their joint position on the matter.


SaharaReporters has reported that before joining politics, Bagudu was a prolific bagman for Abacha helping the dictator and his family to launder a large chunk of the estimated $2.2 billion stolen from Nigeria’s coffers.


He has over the years been in the news over plans by the U.S. to help Nigeria repatriate millions of dollars from the British Island of Jersey.


The funds were part of the billions of dollars traced to Abacha.


Shortly after the agreement was signed in the U.S., Bloomberg wire service reported that officials of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) kicked against plans by the Nigerian government to return $100 million to Bagudu from the Abacha loot.


The DoJ said in a February 3, 2020 statement that the former Kebbi governor and now minister was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria”.


Bagudu was said to have created anonymous companies in the British Virgin Islands and other financial havens.


His offshore network system relied on a sprawling global industry of bankers, investment portfolio managers and go-betweens who worked together to protect his stolen wealth.


He also reportedly used anonymous companies, investment trusts and other paper entities to create complex structures to disguise the origins of Abacha’s dirty money.


Bagudu was one of the Nigerians unveiled by the 2021 Pandora Papers as hiding dirty money in offshore shell companies.


In 2020, the US government opposed a move by Nigeria to hand over $110 million to Bagudu.


SaharaReporters had reported that the money was part of the Abacha loot to be repatriated.


The former Kebbi governor’s assets were seized along with Abacha’s because they were considered to be his reward for the “services” he rendered to the military head of state.


Court documents showed that the payment was a product of a 2018 agreement between Bagudu and the Nigerian government.


Other documents also revealed that former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration challenged a move by the U.S. to further question Ibrahim Bagudu, his elder brother about the laundered fund.


The Buhari-led administration also fought to thwart America’s effort to remove the confidential classification of the agreements, which would make them available for public scrutiny as well as being presented as evidence in court.


The court papers further rubbished the claim by Bagudu that he had done nothing wrong and that the U.S. government was merely trying to use him as an excuse to confiscate the recovery of the money by the Nigerian government.

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