Restitution of USD 321 million by Switzerland to Nigeria under World Bank oversight: signing of a tripartite agreement

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Press releases, 05.12.2017

A media release from the Swiss Government: 

Bern, 04.12.2017 - In keeping with its policy of returning illegally acquired assets, Switzerland has reached an agreement with Nigeria and the World Bank on the restitution of approximately USD 321 million to Nigeria's population. The modalities of restitution are set out in an agreement which was signed by the three parties on 4 December in Washington D.C. at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR).

Director of the Directorate of International Law and Head of the Swiss delegation to the GFAR, Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, signed the agreement together with Nigerian Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and Head of the World Bank representation in Abuja, Rachid Benmessaoud. The agreement, negotiated for Switzerland by Ambassador Pio Wennubst, Assistant Director General of the SDC, stipulates that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project supported and overseen by the World Bank. The project will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population. The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption.

The chosen solution for restitution is being undertaken by the three contracting parties as a partnership. It is in line with the objectives of Switzerland's strategy to freeze, confiscate and return the illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (asset recovery) and is based on the principles of transparency and accountability as well as the involvement of civil society in the restitution process. In addition, the restitution of these funds makes a concrete contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and can set a good example internationally for future restitution cases.

These assets, which were initially frozen in Luxembourg, were repatriated and confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor's office of Geneva against Abba Abacha. At its meeting on Friday, 1 December 2017, the Federal Council approved the signing of the agreement.

The GFAR brought together experts from the field of asset recovery to strengthen international cooperation in this area. The signing of the agreement gave Switzerland a high level of visibility and strengthened its pioneering role internationally in this area. At the same time, the Swiss delegation took advantage of the opportunity in Washington for bilateral talks, among others with the focus countries of Tunisia and Ukraine to discuss ongoing proceedings in connection with assets frozen in Switzerland.

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