The United States has announced it’s intention to resume legal proceedings to seize over $150 million allegedly laundered by Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.
The United States alleged that the governor was part of a gang controlled by Sani Abacha which misappropriated billions of dollars from state coffers in the 1990s. A UK court had frozen the family investment in 2014 following a request from the United States.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has said it is unable to assist the U.S. because it is bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with a previous administration in 2003.
This arrangement allowed Bagudu to return $163 million to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him, according to court filings.
The Buhari administration and Bagudu, however, concluded a new agreement in 2018 that would see ownership of the investment portfolios — worth 141 million euros ($154 million) in late 2019 — transferred to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to U.S. court documents. Buhari’s administration has applied to the U.K. court to unfreeze the assets.
The U.S. Justice Department said in February 2020 it had asked the Nigerian government to withdraw litigation it had commenced in the U.K. that was hindering its efforts to forfeit laundered funds held in Bagudu’s name.
Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, is however challenging the forfeiture of the funds in a federal court in Washington.
Ibrahim is of the belief that an out-of-court settlement is still possible with US and UK government officials.
US authorities and the Bagudu family obtained a stay of the judgement in 2020 to enable the parties to negotiate a resolution but with no agreement reached, the case is set to resume, according to court documents dated March 2.