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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 20:15 GMT

World: Africa

Abacha ministers return stolen millions

Sani Abacha: Billions of dollars disappeared during his rule

The Nigerian authorities have recovered millions of dollars embezzled during the rule of the late dictator Sani Abacha.

Nigeria elections
A relative of General Abacha, and two former ministers who served in his government, have handed over a sum of money reported to total $64m.

The three accused of the theft were involved in a fraud totalling $2.5bn

The money that has now been returned was taken mostly from the national treasury, under the pretence of paying debts owed to a Russian firm for construction of a huge steel plant.

Returned money voluntarily

A government spokesman, Mohammed Haruna, said former ministers Anthony Ani and Bashir Dalhatu, and an unidentified relative of General Abacha, had surrendered the money voluntarily.

A total of at least $800m has now been recovered from officials in General Abacha's government, Mr Haruna said.

He said the international police organisation, Interpol, had been asked to help the Nigerian authorities retrieve the money.

The current Nigerian leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, began a crackdown on corruption when he took power after the death of General Abacha last year.

President-elect Olesegun Obasanjo has also promised to fight corrupt practices in the Nigerian government when he assumes office in May.

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