LAW Abacha’s loot: Case assigned …. file not located
The trial of Mohammed Abacha, the eldest son of late Head of State Gen. Sani Abacha, may have suffered a setback as the case file was yet to be located in the Federal Capital Territory High Court archives.
A source close to the court said yesterday that although the case has been reassigned to another trial judge but the case file was nowhere to be found.
He said that the case file had been taken into the High Court archives since 2001 and several other case files were also deposited after the trial went on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mohammed Abacha was arraigned over a decade ago before the FCT High Court on a 123 criminal count charge, but before his plea was taken, he went on appeal.
Mohammed Abacha had attempted to stop his trial but was unsuccessful at the trial court before he proceeded to the Court of Appeal where he also lost. He then approached the Supreme Court where he argued that the immunity enjoyed by his late father while in office extended to him and that having forfeited some of the family’s properties confiscated by the government, he should be exempted from prosecution in line with the he provisions of Decree 53 of 1999.
Daily Trust recalls that the Supreme Court on January 17, 2014 in a unanimous decision dismissed Mohammed Abacha’s appeal and held that immunity did not extend beyond the tenure of office and that even if the late Head of State were alive, he can be prosecuted for a criminal offence, much less his son who was not an occupant of the office of the Head of State.
The court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal which held that the late former Head of State’s immunity did not extend to his son and ordered Mohammed Abacha to face trial at the Abuja court.
In his judgment, Justice Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen held that even if Gen. Abacha were to be alive today, the immunity he enjoyed under the law and constitution was personal to him and limited to his period of office as he can be proceeded against immediately he left office for offences committed while occupying the office of Head of State.
“His immunity, however, would not, in any circumstance cover his son, the appellant in this case, so the argument is without legal foundation,” the apex court held.
With this decision, Mohammed Sani Abacha was ordered to go back and stand trial at the High Court where he had been facing trial before he went on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mohammed Sani Abacha has continued to maintain that all the Abacha family assets were legitimately acquired.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that it will do all that is required for the Against Corruption (UNCAC).”
The United States Department of Justice had recently written to the federal government for assistance to serve forfeiture notice on the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s son, Mohammed, his associate, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Dumez Nigeria Plc.
The defendants are to forfeit over $550 million and £95,910, 222.84 in10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to the Abachas in France, Britain, the British Virgin Islands and the United States.
The statement titled: ‘Forfeiture Proceedings Instituted by the United States Department of Justice Against the Estate of late General Sani Abacha and his Associates’, said the federal government was obligated to assist the United States under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
According to the US, the Abachas were given up till Tuesday March 25 to file an application before the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia to either set aside the forfeiture order or vary it.
Failure to file a counterapplication or ask for a stay will lead to the automatic forfeiture of the cash and other assets today.
There was no indication that the counter application was filed by the family of the late Head of State as at the time of filing this report.
J.B Daudu SAN a former NBA President is Mohammed Abacha’s lawyer