The federal government yesterday said the withdrawal of money laundering charges filed against Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, would facilitate the recovery of the sum of $380 million from the proceedings against Mohammed in Luxembourg and $550 million from forfeiture proceedings instituted by the United States Department of Justice.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said the charges were withdrawn because the Abacha family had not only undertaken not to contest the proceedings, but had also agreed to cooperate fully with the federal government in the recovery proceedings.
In a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the minister. Mr Ambrose Momoh, Adoke said the insinuation that government withdrew charges against Mohammed to enable him go scot free was false.
The minister explained that a key objective in the prosecution of corruption cases was the deprivation of the criminal offender of the proceeds of crime.
He said: "This is achieved by taking away of such proceeds of crime by the state (regurgitation and restitution).
"This principal objective has been achieved to a very significant degree in the Abacha proceedings."
Adoke said while the yearnings for criminal sanctions in form of custodial sentences against the Abacha family was understandable, it should be appreciated that this was a case that had lingered for over 16 years.
The minister said the Abacha's case was not a straightforward case where conviction was assured.
He said: "The standard of proof in criminal cases of this nature, which is “proof beyond reasonable doubt,” poses great difficulty for the prosecution as any shadow of doubt is resolved in favour of the accused person.
"This was appreciated by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, when it entered into a Global Settlement Agreement with the Abacha family.
"What the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has done is to ensure that government gets the best deal it can get in the circumstance.
"To this end, this administration has worked closely and consulted widely with experts, international partners including global development agencies on these criminal proceedings and it is clear from the feedback received that there is no doubt that the Jonathan administration has, within the constraints imposed by this case, done its best to protect the interest of the country."
He said the blanket criticism by Transparency International (IT) which according to him had little bearing on the facts, was therefore unfortunate.
The minister also said the singling out of Nigeria for criticism by TI for adopting measures, which were globally used in cases of this nature and which had produced good results for the country was unfair.
He assured Nigerians that the federal government was being guided by national interest, the need to promote transparency and accountability and international best practices in its dealings with the Abacha family and indeed, all such recovery proceedings.
Adoke said the federal government of Nigeria was currently pursuing recovery proceedings against the Abacha family and its associates in Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, and the United Kingdom.
He said the government had also made a request for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal matters to the United States of America in respect of the stolen assets within that jurisdiction.
"Government is also working assiduously with the Department of Justice of the US in respect of the forfeiture proceedings it commenced against the Abacha family and its associates.
"The proceedings will make it possible for the Abacha family and its associates to forfeit over $550million and £95,910 Pounds sterling in 10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to the Abachas in France, Britain, British Virgin Islands and the US," he said.
According to him, the criminal proceedings instituted against the Abacha family and their associates have forced them to back down from contesting the cases filed by the Federal Government of Nigeria to recover stolen assets in Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, the United Kingdom and the US. The Abacha family has also withdrawn their appeal before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg seeking to set aside the forfeiture orders made against them and their associates in Liechtenstein.
"The aforementioned steps have led to the recovery of 226.3 million from Liechtenstein in addition to the 7.5 million euros that was recovered from an associated company of the Abachas’ in Liechtenstein in 2011. It will also be recalled that in 2011, the federal government was able to recover and repatriate through negotiated settlement with the Jersey, the sum of 22.5 million pounds confiscated from an associate of the Abacha family by the Island of Jersey," he added.