The United States Government has given more insights into the looting of over $2billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by a former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, and some of his children.
The US said Abacha secured 60 false security votes letters to draw money from the CBN.
More than $700million of the money was delivered to Mohammed Abacha in bags or boxes full of cash.
Some of the cash transferred from the CBN, under the guise of security votes, to foreign accounts included $1.1billion and £413 million (GBP) in cash; $50,465,450; £3,500,000 GBP in traveller’s cheques; and $386,290,169.
In a document filed by the United States Department in the District and Bankruptcy Courts for the District of Columbia, the US court document, which was exclusively obtained by our correspondent, said in part: “Abacha together with Mohammed Sani Abacha, Bagudu and others, systematically embezzled public funds worth billions of dollars from the CBN on the pretext that the funds were necessary for national security.
“After causing the CBN to release the funds, often in cash, Gen. Abacha and Bagudu then moved the funds overseas, including through US financial institutions (the Security Votes Fraud).
“Over 60 false security votes letters were addressed to and endorsed by Gen. Abacha, each of which resulted in the withdrawal of Nigeria’s public funds from the CBN.
“Subsequently, the funds were deposited into accounts controlled by, or used to purchase assets for the benefit of, Gen. Abacha, Bagudu or other members of the conspiracy.”
The document quoted samples of some of the false security votes letters raised by a former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Ismaila Gwarzo.
The document said: “By letter, dated June 2, 1994, Gwarzo falsely stated: “In view of the ongoing negative campaign against this country, a small international operation has been mounted to cover it. Please approve as a matter of urgency, the sum of $5million for this operation.
“By letter dated November 30, 1994, Gwarzo falsely stated:$100m requested to combat an economy that was deflected and distorted through the black market.
“By letter, dated August 20, 1996, Gwarzo falsely stated: “In light of the current political situation in the country, coupled with the increase in security operations, there is need for a lot of funds to handle the challenges outlined above such that I require N350million plus $30million and 15million pounds. Please consider the desperate need and approve.
“Each of these letters and others like them were endorsed by Gen. Abacha.”
The document also gave insights into how the embezzled funds were looted from the CBN and transferred out of the country through United States.
The document added: “Shortly after Gen. Abacha’s death, the government of Nigeria established a Special Investigation Panel(SIP), which found that Gen. Abacha and his co-conspirators had used false security votes letters to steal and defraud more than $2billion in public funds, including: (1) at least $1.1billion and £ 413 million (GBP) in cash(2) at least $50,465,450 and £ 3,500,000 GBP in traveller’s cheques; and (3) at least $386, 290, 169 through wire transfers.
“The conspirators transported the proceeds of the Security Votes Fraud out of Nigeria to accounts in Europe that were under the conspirators’ private control, including the Rayville and Standard Alliance accounts at Banque SBA, the Eagle Alliance and Mecosta accounts at ANZ (London) and the Mecosta account at Standard Bank as described below.
“The CBN staff and other individuals known and unknown to the United States generally would deliver the currency stolen with the security votes letters to Gwarzo at his residence.
“Gwarzo and others acting at his discretion would repackage the currency in secure bags and then deliver it to Gen. Abacha at his residence in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Gen. Abacha or those acting at his direction, delivered more than $700million of these funds to Mohammed Abacha in bags or boxes full of cash.
“Mohammed Abacha gave the cash he received to Bagudu, who later arranged for the money to be transferred to accounts controlled by Bagudu and Mohammed Abacha in foreign countries.
“Transfers included deposits into accounts in the name of defendants Mecosta, Doraville, Standard Alliance, and Rayville, as well as Eagle Alliance and Harbour Engineering.
“In order to move the money overseas, Bagudu deposited the cash proceeds of the Security Votes Fraud into at least one of two Nigerian commercial banks, Union Bank of Nigeria and/ or Inland Bank of Nigeria.”
Bagudu referred to the money deposited into Union Bank and Inland Bank as his “cash swaps.”
“Bagudu and/or Mohammed Abacha then instructed Union Bank or Inland Bank to transfer the stolen funds to other accounts under Bagudu or Mohammed Abacha’s control, such as accounts in the name of Mecosta, Rayville and Eagle Alliance.
“Inland Bank or Union Bank made the necessary arrangements to transfer the money overseas. The funds were transferred from Union Bank or Inland Bank back to the CBN to an account held by Union Bank or Inland Bank at the CBN.
“The CBN then transferred the funds from the account of Union Bank or Inland Bank to their respective overseas domiciliary accounts held at banks in either London or New York.
“The specific London or New York account varied depending on which Nigerian commercial bank had been used in the first instance.
“Through these “cash swaps,” at least $137million was transported into and out of the United States, and into accounts held in the name of the defendant corporations.”
The document listed 16 accounts and assets to be forfeited by Gen. Abacha and his associates.
The Department of Justice added: “On November 18, 2013, the prosecutor filed a forfeiture action in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to forfeit the proceeds of money laundering and corruption offences related to the investigation of General Abacha and his associates.
“The properties sought to be forfeited by U.S. authorities include the following assets (collectively, the Defendant Properties):
“The prosecutor has sought the enforcement of the warrants of arrest in rem in France, Jersey, British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom.
“The prosecutor is now required to provide notice of the U.S. forfeiture proceedings to Mohammed Sani Abacha, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Dumez Nigeria Plc.
“Additionally, in order to enforce the warrants of arrest in rem for property located in the United Kingdom, the prosecutor must provide record of the U.K proceedings to Mohammed Sani Abacha and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.”