British banks are about to start repaying Nigeria a large part of the $1.3bn (pounds 700m) looted from its central bank during the dictatorship of the late General Sani Abacha, according to sources at the UN Office on Drugs and Corruption.
Abacha was Nigeria's dictator from 1993 to 1998, and the gang which surrounded him probably made away with at least $5bn (pounds 2.7bn). The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Metropolitan Police estimate that $1.3bn of this came to Britain, a small amount of which has already been returned A Treasury spokesperson would not reveal the sum of money that Britain is returning but added: "I can confirm that legal proceedings are continuing."
Jersey has already returned the $170m of Nigerian money it had which has so far proved to be the product of corruption and fraud, including a $126m deposit routed by Abacha via Switzerland.
In June last year, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's current elected president, visited the island to commend the authorities on their efforts.
The investigators in Jersey are continuing their probe into Nigerian assets held in the island's banks, William Bailhache QC, Jersey's attorney- general, told The Independent on Sunday. "Our new investigations may take a year."
The return of Nigerian assets, whose value is still to be disclosed, assumes great symbolic significance as the UN Convention against Corruption is set to come into force in the first half of next year.
The African country - whose government has got rich on the rapidly growing income from its booming oil industry, but where 70 per cent of the 130 million people live on less than $1 a day - is estimated to have had $106bn siphoned away between 1996 and 1999. At the end of 2002, Bola Ige, a …