by OBIORA IFOH
…envoy assures President-elect to release stolen money
Another $370 million belonging to the late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, has been found in Luxembourg.
Ambassador Hodel, who said no slush fund from Nigeria is in Switzerland however said that recently, there was another request by Nigeria to the Swiss authority to look for Abacha’s money, adding that after that, some amount was found in an account domiciled in Luxembourg.
“That is now between the Abacha family and the government. They have tried to find a deal so that this money can also come back,” he said. Asked how much was involved, the Ambassador said “The recent one is $370 million.”
He said that though the Swiss government was not involved in the reparation arrangement, the Nigerian government has however asked for legal assistance.
“When the government makes a request to my government, we work together on it. But this case is different.
That is the Abacha family directly with the Nigerian government finding a deal. So, the Swiss government is not involved and the money is in Luxembourg.
“They have asked for legal assistance and we have provided them with this information. It is not a classical case and we would have preferred a classical case where we can give the money back and make sure that it is used in the interest of the people.
Now it is up to the Nigerian government,” he added. The envoy said his country’s diplomatic relation with Nigeria is a long standing issue.
He said: “Our laws are there to help all countries fighting corruption. We will help this government. If you remember, many years ago we gave back the Abacha money to Nigeria.
The situation in Switzerland has changed. The policy is no longer the same.
“In the past, people come to deposit money in Switzerland without too much controversy. Now, it is not possible to deposit money in Switzerland because of legal origin.
“Before the bank has to prove that the money is illegal, but now, before you deposit money in Swiss bank, you have to prove that you have earned that money legally.
If you are a wealthy businessman, you have money in billions legally, but if, for example as a journalist, you come to Switzerland with $2 million and say you earned it because you did a very good job, nobody will believe you.”
Also, the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Carlos E. Trejo Sosawas, said Nigeria is very near to the heart of Cuba. According to him, Nigerians are parts of the roots of the Cuban nation.
“More than 80 per cent of people who came to Cuba in the 19th century from Africa came from Nigeria, which means the blood running in the vein of Cuban nation is partially Nigerian blood.
So, our coming here means we have come to the home of our forefather,” he said. The envoy noted that in his country, cases of discrimination do not arise.
“We don’t have African or European Cubans; we have Cubans,” he said. He said his visit was to deliver the goodwill message from the President and people of Cuba.
He said Cuba has achieved many things in health and the sports industry as well as others which are available for Nigerians in the last 15 years. He added that Cuba healthcare has become one of the best in the world.
While responding, General Buhari said the people of his generation would continue to cherish the spectacular performance of two Cuban revolutionary leaders, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro as nationalist per excellence.
He told the ambassador that he admire the unique social structure and system of the state especially given the rapid development that has been achieved by the Island nation.
General Buhari also expressed happiness at the restoration of normal ties between Cuba and its erstwhile hostile neighbour, the United States of America.
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