26 Feb 2020
Despite attempts by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to deny the transfer of $110 million stolen from Nigeria’s treasury by late military tyrant, Sani Abacha, to Mr Abacha’s most profligate money launderer and current governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, United States court papers obtained by PREMIUM TIMES show that the administration signed two agreements with Mr Bagudu that effectively sealed the transfer of the money to the governor.
Mr Bagudu is a close friend of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as a top member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The court documents also reveal that the Buhari administration is vigorously challenging a move by the United States government to further question Ibrahim Bagudu, the governor’s elder brother in relation to the laundered fund. The administration is also fighting to thwart America’s effort to remove the confidential classification of the agreements, which would make available for public scrutiny as well as being presented as evidence in court.
The court papers further rubbish the claim by Mr Bagudu that he had done nothing wrong and that the United States government was merely trying to use him as an excuse to confiscate the recovery of the money by the Nigeria government.
One of the agreements, signed on October 26, 2018, was an amendment of a 2003 agreement signed between the Bagudu family and the Nigerian government to settle all of Mr Bagudu’s civil claim against Nigeria and all of Nigeria’s civil claim, administrative, and criminal claims against Mr Bagudu for helping Mr Abacha to launder the funds.
The other agreement, signed on September 6, 2019, was a Deed of Variation, which amended the 2018 agreement by extending its termination date from August 30, 2019 to February 28, 2020.
The document counters the misleading explanations given by the Office of Nigeria’s Attorney General and supporters of Mr Bagudu and the Nigerian government.
After Bloomberg broke the news that the U.S. government was resisting a plan by the Nigerian government to transfer over $110 million to Mr Bagudu from money stolen from Nigerian treasury by the late dictator, Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s Attorney General, denied that there was any such agreement between the government and Mr Bagudu.
Mr Malami on Friday released a statement that apparently sought to obfuscate the government’s agreement to pay Mr Bagudu $110 million with a different portion of the Abacha loot recently repatriated to Nigeria from the Island of Jersey.
“It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and the Island of Jersey, the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return of over $300m in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation,” his office said.
“The FG is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recovery and the procedure for recovery are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.
“No third-party interest was captured in the memo that was approved by the council.”
What Mr Malami did not reveal was that the Buhari administration had actually agreed to transfer $110 million from another portion of the Abacha loot laundered by Mr Bagudu and kept in a trust held in the United Kingdom.
The decision to pay Mr Bagudu $110 million was taken following an amendment of a 2003 settlement agreement between the Federal Government and the Kebbi State governor. That amendment took place in 2018.
2003 Settlement Agreement
In 2003, the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo entered into an agreement with Mr Bagudu, which allowed the repatriation of $163 million to Nigeria. In exchange, Nigeria renounced any interest whatsoever in Mr Bagudu’s other assets which include funds domiciled in Blue Holding trusts held in the United Kingdom as well as any future plan to prosecute him for laundering the stolen funds on behalf of Mr Abacha.
Funds held in Blue Holdings trusts are believed to be part of Nigeria’s commonwealth Mr Bagudu laundered for Mr Abacha. The contested funds are different from the $300 million Abacha loot recently repatriated to Nigeria after a tripartite agreement between Nigeria, Jersey and the United States, although it was repatriated from the accounts of one of Mr Bagudu’s money laundering vehicles, Doraville properties domiciled at Deutsche Bank in Jersey.
In 2012, the Goodluck Jonathan administration requested the help of the U.S. in reclaiming government’s assets part of which are believed to be held in Blue holding trusts. Mr Bagudu immediately responded to the request by filing a claim of a breach of agreement in a UK court.
Immediately Mr Badugu filed the claim, Nigeria withdrew its request for the U.S. to help it retrieve government funds and subsequently declined repeated calls to assist the U.S. since then. However, the U.S. did not stop pursuing the forfeiture of the assets.
By Nicholas Ibekwe, Premium Times, 24 February 2020
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