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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
'Abacha accounts' to be frozen
Poor Nigerians
Years of misrule have left many Nigerians in poverty
By the BBC's Greg Morsbach

The judicial authorities in Britain have reportedly ordered some of the world's largest banks to freeze accounts believed to belong to the former Nigerian leader, Sani Abacha.

A court order seen by the Financial Times newspaper has named a list of banks in the City of London in connection with money looted during General Abacha's rule.

Late Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha
Abacha is suspected of looting huge sums
Nigeria had requested Britain's help in recovering part of the money. The High Court in London has instructed the banks to return the funds to Nigeria, the Financial Times reports.

The public naming of 19 well-established banks comes at a time when financial regulators around the world are bolstering anti-money-laundering measures - cutting off the supplies to the groups believed to be behind the 11 September attacks in the United States.

Embezzled funds

The move is designed to help Nigeria recover more than $3bn allegedly embezzled during General Abacha's rule which ended with his death in 1998.

The paper says the banks include the London branches of Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, France's BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole as well as Switzerland's leading banks, Credit Suisse and UBS.

Banks reportedly named
Deutsche Bank
Commerzbank
BNP Paribas
Credit Agricole
Credit Suisse
UBS
HSBC
Barclays
NatWest
Goldman Sachs
Merrill Lynch
Citibank
The court order also reportedly named Britain's high street banks HSBC, Barclays and NatWest.

American banks Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citibank also feature in the list seen by the FT alongside several Nigerian banks.

Lawyers acting for the Nigerian Government obtained the court order after delays in pursuing criminal prosecutions in the Britain.

Six months ago, Britain's financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, revealed that 23 London banks had handled $1.3bn belonging to family and friends of General Abacha.

Fifteen banks were told their money-laundering controls were too lax.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"It is possible that most of the money may already have moved on"
See also:

29 Sep 00 | Africa
Nigerian anti-corruption action
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