The Swiss Government has said it is in the process of repatriating $321 million of looted funds of the late General Sani Abacha administration.
Switzerland’s ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Eric Mayoraz, disclosed this on the sideline of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in Abuja on Friday.
Mayoraz said $722 million of the looted funds had so far been repatriated, adding that the signing of the MoU with Nigeria would accelerate the legal process of repatriating funds.
He said: “The Abacha loot is a very active dossier that we are dealing with now.
“We have repatriated $722 million in 2005 to Nigeria and we are now in the process of repatriating $321 million from the second batch of Abacha funds that we have collected.
“Today, the signing of the MoU is for the future cases so it will allow better cooperation.”
“Of course if Nigeria has some new cases to submit to Switzerland, this we will be able to do with this new MoU that we just signed today.
“It will accelerate the process.
“It will reduce time for the process of transmitting the legal requests from Nigeria to Switzerland and vice versa because the MoU we signed is not only for looted assets, it is for all criminal matters.”
The envoy said the signing was aimed at fostering understanding of the legal systems and improving the judicial cooperation of both parties.
He added that the signing of the MoU formalised the commitments of both countries to fighting international crime.
He said: “There is a common ground; this is now a legal tool.
“If we will each do our share of the work, we will reach our goal; it will in the future be harder to profit from corruption and I am very proud of that.”
In her remarks, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijah Abba Ibrahim, said the signing of the MoU was a follow up the Nigeria-Swiss dialogue, which held in December 2015.
Ibrahim said: “During that meeting, the Swiss delegation submitted a draft MoU on Legal Mutual Assistance highlighting the blocking of bank accounts, seizure of objects of illegal proceeds and handing over of illicit assets for the purpose of forfeiture or return, among others.
“The dialogue was designed to facilitate cooperation on human rights issues of mutual importance between Nigeria and Switzerland.”
Ibrahim added that the signing of the MoU made the “bureaucracy of repatriating money from Switzerland quicker and easier”.
Mayoraz signed the MoU on behalf of the Swiss Government, while Ibrahim signed on behalf of the Federal Government.