Nigerian thieves targeted biggest robber of all - dictator Sani Abacha

Nigerian police seize gold, diamonds taken from dictator Abacha's treasure trove of loot

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 4:43am


Nigerian police have recovered a stash of gold and diamond jewellery worth thousands of dollars from robbers who targeted a home of the country's most notorious former dictator.

Officials in Kano, Nigeria, said four men swiped US$125,000 worth of jewellery last year - a staggering 20 million naira in local currency, or 100 years' income for the average Nigerian - after raiding one of many sprawling, lavish homes of the former military ruler Sani Abacha.

The greed of Abacha, who ruled for five years after a 1993 coup, shocked even Nigerians, used to plundering on a grand scale. He is believed to have stolen US$4.3 billion while in office. The tradition has continued, as Nigeria's oil wealth continues to be looted. In April, James Ibori, an influential governor, was jailed in Britain for looting US$250 million over eight years.

The Abacha family has largely lain low since the short, flamboyant general died of a heart attack while cavorting with Indian prostitutes in 1998. As his death sparked an outpouring of jubilation, his wife Maryam was caught trying to flee the country with 38 cash-stuffed suitcases.

"How can anyone spend so much on jewellery?" asked Muhammadu Bello, a trader who makes about US$1,200 a year.

A push to recover US$4 billion in the family's accounts in Switzerland forced the tax haven to relax banking-secrecy regulations after landmark rulings.

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency estimates about US$400 billion has been siphoned off from the oil-rich country into private pockets since 1960. Globally, developing countries lose up to US$40 billion a year to corruption, the World Bank says.