Abacha loot: Moroccan to superintend execution of $322 million

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Moroccan-born Rachid Benmessaoud of the World Bank is the person supervising the administration of $322 million recovered Abacha loot, Today’s Echo has gathered.

Sani Abacha

General Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 to 1998, when he died of Cardiac arrest. His five years regime is probably the most oppressive in Nigeria’s history. Many politicians, activists and journalists were killed, allegedly on the orders of Abacha or some of his subordinates.

Abacha’s regime was also probably the most corrupt, with hundreds of millions of dollars in oil money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. During Abacha’s regime, he and his family reportedly embezzled between $2 billion and $5 billion from the country’s coffers. In 2004, Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history, right next to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, according to Wikipedia.

Most the funds were looted through Abacha’s national security adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, who made fake fund requests which he approved. The money was then taken to Abacha’s house in cash or cheque and Mohammed Sada, his friend laundered them to foreign accounts.

Subsequent Nigerian governments after Abacha have insisted on getting back the looted money that had been stashed in these overseas accounts without success.

In August 2014, the United States department of Justice announced the return of $480 million to the Nigerian government. This money had been labelled as proceeds of corruption by Sani Abacha and other Nigerians.

 However, it had been more difficult to repatriate the funds stacked in Switzerland because of the European country’s financial secrecy policy.

Nevertheless, in March 2016, The Swiss Government signed an agreement with the Nigerian government under president Muhammadu Buhari to repatriate a sum of $322 million. The money was then transferred to the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) and subsequently to an account at the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).

Rachid Benmessaoud

According to our sources, World Bank’s Country Director for Africa, Morroccan- born Rachid Benmessaoud has been appointed by the institution to supervise the spending of the money. This makes it impossible for the Nigerian government to make use of the money without his consent.

Although it is unlikely that Benmessaoud’s nationality will influence his administration of the money, there has been increased tension between Nigeria and Morocco in recent times. Morocco is trying to join the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS), a move opposed by Nigerian diplomats.

According to the World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud joined the Bank in 1990 as an Energy Planner in the then Europe, Middle East and North Africa Vice Presidency. Since then, he has held various positions in the Bank, with his most recent assignment as Country Director for Pakistan in the South Asia Region.

“In this new position, Benmessaoud’s priorities will be to lead the World Bank Nigeria country team to continue to improve the impact of the Bank’s large portfolio in Nigeria in supporting the government’s development priorities including education, the power sector, and trade and regional integration, work with the Government of Nigeria to further consolidate macroeconomic gains by improving budget allocation as well as the quality of public spending, and lead and support staff in implementing the priorities of the new Africa Strategy while adjusting to corporate realities and opportunities,” a statement on the international institution’s website says.

In July 2018, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described how the recovered fund would be redistributed to poor Nigerians under the Federal Government’s Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme.

Today’s Echo understands that Benmessaoud had given the go ahead for $33 million to be issued to Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance in October 2018.

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