The National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom announced Thursday that it has recovered more than $23 million taken from Nigeria by the country’s late military dictator Sani Abacha, the latest in a sequence of such recoveries around the world.
From 1993 until 1998, Abacha oversaw Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil exporter, robbing the country of up to $5 billion in public funds, according to Transparency International. He was never prosecuted.
The money recovered in the United Kingdom is part of a bigger pool of monies identified as having been plundered by Abacha and his allies by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the NCA stated in a statement.
“The NCA is determined to ensuring that the UK does not become a refuge for criminals to launder their proceeds of crime, and civil asset recovery is a strong tool in this fight,” said Billy Beattie, Senior Manager, Asset Denial, at the NCA.
According to police, over 100 billion pounds ($123 billion) of filthy money passes through or enters Britain each year, purchasing everything from expensive residences to entire businesses.
The Panama, Paradise, and Pandora Papers leaks have established London’s role as a worldwide money-laundering centre.
The $23 million was recovered following seven years of litigation and international negotiations conducted at the request of the DOJ, according to the statement. The cash will be transferred to the Department of Justice.
A representative for the NCA did not immediately reply to a request for comment on whether the monies will eventually be returned to Nigeria. Previously, countries such as the United States and Switzerland repatriated Abacha loot to those countries.