LOOTERS who plan to hide their illicit wealth in Britain will face a hostile host, with the signing yesterday of a pact by the two countries.
Britain will facilitate the return of stolen assets on the condition that:
The Federal Government will ensure that stolen assets recovered from both within and outside the country will be put to judicious uses; and that
such assets will not be re-looted.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) signed for Nigeria. Minister of State for Immigration Robert Goodwill signed for Britain. The ceremony was held in Abuja.
The memorandum of understanding is specifically on modalities for the return of stolen assets.
Malami, who praised Britain for its willingness to cooperate with Nigeria in recovery and return of stolen assets, said the Federal Government will endeavour to prevent further looting of the nation’s wealth.
The AGF, who frowned at alleged moves by some “individuals to use the process of asset recovery to create reputational damage for the government,” said all measures adopted since he assumed office in November last year have been aimed at “effective and efficient assets recovery.”
He said: “Today, we are determined to change the narrative, regardless of who is involved. I want to assure the international community that all funds recovered within and outside Nigeria would be judiciously utilised for projects that will benefit the poorest segment of the Nigerian society as well as enable us support reform in the justice sector.
“The position of the law in Nigeria today is that all funds recovered should be paid directly into the Consolidated Revenue Account. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case under the previous administration,” he said.
The AGF said the Muhammadu Buhari administration was committed to enacting laws, including the Proceeds of Crime Bill, to strengthen existing anti-corruption institutions, prosecution authorities and law enforcement agencies.
Leader of the UK delegation and UK’s Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill said the signing of the memorandum was in furtherance of his country’s promise, at the last Anti-Corruption summit held in London in May, to improve the process of the return of looted assets.
He said by this gesture, his country’s government was sending a loud message to all that the UK was no longer a safe haven for stolen assets, including looted funds.
Goodwill, who was silent on the worth of Nigeria’s looted assets currently in his country, said the UK government was “committed to return all funds looted from the Nigerian State and we are keen to do this as soon as the necessary procedures allow.”
He said aside the UK, 40 other jurisdictions, including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are willing to automatically share beneficial ownership information relating to companies, trusts, foundations, she’ll companies and other relevant entities and legal arrangements.
Goodwill, a Member of Parliament (MP), said: “This MoU provides the mechanism by which monies can be returned. Our ability to recover and return stolen assets should send a clear message to all, who may seek to harbour such assets overseas, that there is no safe haven in the UK.”
The UK has been returning frozen Nigerian cash stashed away in their country.
Money seized from former Bayelsa State Governor tehe late Diepreiye Alamieyeseigha and former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye and former Delta State Governor James Ibori, who is serving a jail term in Britain following money laundering conviction, has been released to the federal government.
A former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke is being investigated for money laundering in the UK.
Britain has returned to Nigeria 250,000 pounds – the cash seized from the senator- during his arrest, when Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria James Tansley, handed over two cheques totalling more than $250,000 (£126,000, 29.3m naira).
A further $2.8m of his assets have been frozen by a court order and are awaiting repatriation to Nigeria.
In all, Mr Dariye faces charges of stealing some $128m from Plateau State during his tenure as governor from 1999-2007.
One cheque for $2m belonging to the late Alamieyeseigha has already been returned to Nigeria.