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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Swiss to return more Abacha funds
Gen Sani Abacha
Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998
Switzerland has decided to return to Nigeria almost $500m allegedly stolen by late military ruler Sani Abacha.

The money, which has been frozen in Swiss accounts, was of criminal origin, the Swiss justice ministry said.

Nigeria says Abacha embezzled more than $2bn in the five years he ruled the country until his death in 1998.

Switzerland has already handed back $200m of the $700m Abacha held there. His family has 30 days to contest the decision to return the larger sum.

Origin crucial

The justice ministry in Bern said on Wednesday that not all of the remaining Abacha funds would be transferred to Nigeria.

The greater part of these assets are obviously of criminal origin
Swiss justice ministry
About $7m, whose origin is yet to be determined, would remain in the country for the time being, it said.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Bern says Abacha's relatives are expected to appeal against Wednesday's decision before the Swiss Supreme Court.

They have in the past tried to get the funds released through Swiss courts, but without success.

The funds were frozen in 1999 at the request of the government in Abuja.

Assets linked to Abacha and his family have also been found in Britain, the Channel Islands, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Nigerian officials - including President Olusegun Obasanjo - have said the funds returned would be used for health, education, roads and other projects "to help rural and poor people".

Switzerland's mission in Nigeria will "monitor the use of the Abacha funds in accordance with this assurance", the Swiss statement said.

Swiss return first Abacha funds
19 Dec 03  |  Africa
Nigeria recovers 'stolen' money
27 Nov 03  |  Business
Nigeria closes in on missing cash
20 Aug 03  |  Business
Abacha's son fights back
19 Nov 02  |  Africa
Timeline: Nigeria
25 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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