Switzerland and Nigeria share a common interest to fight corruption. The two countries have been cooperating in the field of Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Criminal Matters for many years, particularly with the aim to restitute illicitly gained assets to their rightful owners.
Mutual Legal Assistance
On 29 July 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was signed. This MoU further clarifies the procedures and provides the possibility for direct contacts and exchanges between the central authorities of both countries.
For further information on the Swiss system in the field of Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, see
Switzerland’s commitment to the fight against corruption and the restitution of illicitly gained assets
In the fight against corruption, Switzerland has taken a strong and clear stance. Through its proactive policy in returning illicitly gained assets, Switzerland has earned a leading role in this field. It engages particularly in the fight against impunity and in fostering the rule of law while promoting good governance and transparency in international cooperation. Also, Switzerland has undertaken effective measures to avoid illicitly gained assets from entering its financial center.
Switzerland has devised a system largely based on the two pillars of prevention and repression. The first step entails preventing illicit assets of politically exposed persons (PEP) from entering Switzerland. If, nevertheless, potentate funds enter the Swiss financial center, Switzerland strives to identify assets of criminal origin efficiently and return them to the country of origin. Over the last 30 years Switzerland has successfully returned approximately USD 2 billion of potentate funds to their countries of origin.
Pioneering work: The case Abacha I
Switzerland has cooperated with the Nigerian authorities on two cases linked to the Abacha clan. “Abacha I” is related to former Head of State Sani Abacha while “Abacha II” to his son Abba Abacha.
In Abacha I, Switzerland was the first country to return stolen assets to Nigeria (more than USD 700 million). The assets were restituted in several phases with the last tranche remitted in 2005. It was also the first time in history that the use of the returned funds could be verified by a monitoring by the World Bank and a shadow monitoring by the civil society. It is therefore fair to say that Switzerland and Nigeria have done pioneering work in this regard.
The case Abacha II
The second case, Abacha II, concerns assets that were not originally located in Switzerland. In a Mutual Legal Assistance procedure linked to a criminal case against Abba Abacha, USD 321 million were frozen and transmitted from Luxembourg to Switzerland in 2014. The assets were subsequently confiscated through a forfeiture order by Geneva’s Public Prosecutor. The forfeiture order provides for the return of the assets to Nigeria and foresees a monitoring of the use of the funds by the World Bank. On 8 March 2016 in Abuja, the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria and the Swiss Foreign Minister signed a Letter of Intent regarding the restitution of the USD 321 million ensuring that the process will be undertaken according to international best practices of transparency and accountability.