LAW Abacha’s loot: Case as­signed …. file not lo­cated

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye

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

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