Ex-General fails in bid to recover £2m from seized Island accounts

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A FORMER Nigerian General and politician has failed in his legal bid to have funds held in seized Jersey bank accounts released.

Jeremiah Timbut Useni, a retired Lieutenant-General who was active in the Nigerian army between 1993 and 1996 under the regime of General Sani Abacha, held four bank accounts with the Jersey branch of Standard Chartered.

The accounts – in US dollars, euros and sterling – were held under the false name ‘Tim Shani’, and contained funds Lieutenant-General Useni redirected out of Nigeria.

The almost £2 million in the accounts was seized last month by the Royal Court.

Attorney General Mark Temple said the Island was looking at repatriating the money back to the West African country.

Lieutenant-General Useni, however, asked the court for access to the funds, saying he had ‘no other way’ to pay his Jersey lawyers, as he had ‘limited income’ and ‘cannot make international transfers’.

However, a subsequent judgment said he had failed to satisfy the court that he did not have ‘assets or resources from a legitimate source’ available to pay his legal expenses, and noted the 79-year-old, also known as ‘Jerry Boy’ in Nigeria, had previously disclosed significant assets.

Lieutenant-General Useni was a senator for the Plateau South area in 2015 with the People’s Democratic Party, but failed in a 2018 bid to become governor.

In his judgment, Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith said: ‘It is counter-intuitive that a retired General and minister has not accumulated capital from his years in those positions with which to pay for legal representation in what are summary proceedings in Jersey, the only burden upon him being to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities that the property held in his bank accounts is not tainted.’

Mr Clyde-Smith noted Lieutenant-General Useni disclosed significant assets in 2008, including interests in oil and gas, transportation and property development, and ownership of a number of petrol stations, a shopping complex and rice mill.

The judgment further noted that the permission sought from the court was not the right legal avenue in which to recover the funds.

‘The court is being asked to ignore the clear line of authority as to the remedies available to the First Respondent and to graft some kind of new remedy on to the convention rights, and in so doing, to override the suspicion as to the bank accounts and the decision of the Jersey Financial Crimes Unit not to give consent to the operation of the accounts,’ the judgment said. ‘We decline to depart from this line of authority and agree that there is no scope for [Lieutenant-General Useni] to raise the relief sought.

‘If we are wrong in so finding, [Lieutenant-General Useni] has not satisfied us in any event that he does not have assets or resources from a legitimate source available to him to pay for his legal expenses.’

The application was dismissed.

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