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US giving nearly $1 million back to Nigeria

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in May 2022. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 22, 2023

The Justice Department announced on Thursday that it will be sharing nearly $1 million with the government of Nigeria after seizing funds traceable to a former Nigerian governor.

The funds had previously been forfeited from a shell company controlled by the former governor of the Nigerian state of Bayelsa, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, who is now deceased, according to a Justice Department press release.

While Alamieyeseigha was governor from 1999-2005, he bought property in Rockville, Maryland with money obtained through corruption, money laundering, and abuse of office, according to the Justice Department. After legal action, the residence was forfeited in 2013 and sold, and a related $400,000 investment account was seized by the U.S.

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Leonard said the repatriated funds would be used for healthcare services in Bayelsa, Africa News reported.

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“Today’s result would not have been possible without significant cooperation between the United States and its international partners in our common fight against corruption and the laundering of corruption proceeds,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Our repatriation of the forfeited funds is an illustration of the United States’ commitment – through its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative – to making the victims of corruption whole.”

The governor was impeached in 2005 following accusations of corruption and was later arrested the same year in London, as reported by Reuters. Alamieyeseigha was jailed in Nigeria and returned to his hometown two years later. 

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The Justice Department stated that the case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with the FBI. 

“Through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies seek to safeguard the U.S. financial system from criminal money laundering and to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption. Where appropriate and possible, the department endeavors to use recovered corruption proceeds to benefit the people harmed by acts of corruption and abuse of public trust,” its statement explained.