Wednesday, June 12, 2024

U.S. finalises Abacha loot lawsuit with Atiku Bagudu; to transfer $30 million to Tinubu’s shady budget minister

The Deutsche Bank-domiciled assets of Doraville Properties, run by the Bagudus in the British island of Jersey, have been identified as stolen from the Nigerian treasury.

• January 23, 2024
Atiku Bagudu, Antony Blinken and Bola Tinubu
Atiku Bagudu, Antony Blinken and Bola Tinubu

The United States has conveyed its willingness to resolve the lawsuit filed against returning Abacha loot, signalling the potential transfer of yet another $30 million to Atiku Bagudu, President Bola Tinubu’s controversial budget and national planning minister. 

Filings seen by Peoples Gazette showed American authorities and Mr Bagudu, represented by his brother Ibrahim Bagudu, have stipulated in a January 5, 2024, joint status report to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington D.C. that an agreement had been reached by the parties over funds trapped in a bank account linked to the Bagudus. The Deutsche Bank-domiciled assets of Doraville Properties, run by the Bagudus in the British island of Jersey, have been identified as stolen from the Nigerian treasury during the military junta of the 90s.

“Plaintiff had circulated proposed settlement documents to the parties. Over the past two months, the parties have reviewed and exchanged comments and edits to those papers,” the January 5 update to the court said. “The proposed settlement, as detailed in prior filings, would also involve the resolution of two related actions in the United Kingdom.” 

“Given the multifaceted nature of the resolution, further time is required for the parties to receive and review documents specific to the UK proceedings from their foreign counterparts and for the parties to finalise and receive authority to execute all of the settlement documents,” the parties added. 

Previously unclaimed, it was slated to be refunded before Mr Bagudu began laying claims to it, having originally been part of the callous corruption that assailed the military regime of Sani Abacha.

An amicus argument entered in the case on January 18 by U.S.-based Nigerian lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe suggested that at least $30 million would be paid to the Nigerian budget minister and his family members, who have fought for decades to keep the loot traced to them following Mr Abacha’s death in 1998. 

The details come as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Nigeria for a brief meeting with Mr Tinubu, whose administration is seen as crucial to resolving the raging political crisis in Niger Republic. The U.S. State Department, which Mr Blinken leads, is a major party to the efforts to seize illicit assets from the Bagudus for onward return to the Nigerian people.

The Nigerian government has also earned international concerns over the recent upsurge in insecurity that saw the Christmas Eve massacre of scores of civilians, mostly Christians, in the central Plateau state. 

In a similar case brewing in France, French sources informed The Gazette in December that Mr Bagudu was preventing the repatriation of $150 million in Abacha loot to Nigeria, with officials further adding that he wanted a $30 million cut from the fund. 

Mr Bagudu did not return a request seeking comments about the latest settlement in the separate U.S. case. But he had previously claimed that only his family members were involved. Mr Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, had said he was fighting to keep the loot because his brother, Atiku, had put the money in a trust fund for the family. The U.S. government rejected that argument, saying beneficiaries need not be complicit for proceeds of fraud to be forfeited.

In the latest joint status report, the parties revealed their pursuit of a court-supervised settlement to conserve resources. The proposed settlement includes the resolution of related actions in the United Kingdom, adding complexity to the negotiations and necessitating an extension of the stay until March 8, 2024. A federal judge approved a new deadline of March 8 for all parties to finalise their joint position on the matter. 

A presidential spokesperson declined comments on Tuesday afternoon. The diplomatic implications of Mr Tinubu’s allyship with Mr Bagudu remained unclear, but the administration has said it was working to repair damaged relationships and focus on delivering a better future for Nigerians. 

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