ALMOST $9 million embezzled by Nigerian government officials and hidden in a Jersey bank account has been seized by the Royal Court.
The funds were transferred to the Island in 2014 as part of a wider corrupt scheme during which government funds legitimately released to buy arms and aviation equipment in the fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram were stolen and moved out of the African state.
Jersey’s Law Officers Department said it was “probable” that most of the funds released for the arms deals between 2009 and 2015 were diverted through foreign bank accounts to and from shell companies to family members of the former ruling party and shared among its members.
The tainted property in the Jersey case was to be used for “such an illicit transaction”, the LoD said.
In November last year, Attorney General Mark Temple served a forfeiture notice under the Forfeiture of Assets (Civil Proceedings) (Jersey) Law 2018 to seize the funds.
The Royal Court granted the application on Friday and the funds will now be returned to Nigeria.
In a statement, the LoD said: “The Attorney General successfully demonstrated that the tainted property belonged to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was more likely than not stolen from the people of Nigeria by high-ranking officials within certain departments of the Nigerian Government in 2014.
“The tainted property was transferred to Jersey as part of a corrupt scheme in operation at the time, which used third party contractors to siphon off government funds for the personal benefit of Nigerian officials and their associates.”
Mr Temple said that the court order concluded a “complex and long-running asset forfeiture investigation”.
He added: “The Economic Crime and Confiscation Unit of the Law Officers’ Department, with support from the Financial Intelligence Unit Jersey, has worked in close partnership with the Federal Republic of Nigeria to recover the tainted property on behalf of the people of Nigeria.
“I am also grateful to the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa for its assistance to ECCU’s investigation.
“This case again demonstrates the effectiveness of the 2018 Forfeiture Law in recovering the proceeds of corruption and restoring that money to victims of crime. I now intend to negotiate an asset return agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
IT is not the first time that the Jersey authorities have seized money funnelled into the Island from Nigeria.
In 2020, more than $300 million embezzled by a Nigerian dictator and hidden in Jersey bank accounts was repatriated to the African state following a landmark agreement. The funds were stolen by General Sani Abacha and his family and associates when he was head of state between 1993 and his death in 1998. The huge sum was moved through the United States’ banking system before being held in accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company.