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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
UK targets Nigeria's stolen loot
Joshua Dariye
Joshua Dariye is still a wanted man in London
Britain has returned to Nigeria some of the money seized by London police from the former governor of Plateau State and says more seized money will follow.

Joshua Dariye was arrested in London in 2004 but skipped bail to return home.

The Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, James Tansley, handed over two cheques totalling more than $250,000 (126,000, 29.3m naira).

Successive Nigerian leaders have made tackling graft a top priority, but few senior officials have been convicted.

The Metropolitan Police say it is only a fraction of the fortune that Mr Dariye and other Nigerian officials had diverted to London.

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman, Helen Kennedy, told the BBC News website "the two cheques now returned to Nigeria are just the cash seized from Dariye on his arrest".

A further $2.8m of his assets have been frozen by court order and are awaiting repatriation to Nigeria.

In all, Mr Dariye faces charges of stealing some $128m from Plateau State during his tenure as governor from 1997-2007.

His official earnings were only $80,000 a year, yet police in London say he accumulated property and assets worth millions, much of it from state funds which were intended to provide drinking water to villages.

Greedy governors

London's Metropolitan Police, working with Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), have also been investigating other former Nigerian state governors, including James Ibori (Delta) and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa).

James Ibori (Delta website) on left, DSP Alamieyeseigha (AFP) on right
UK courts seized assets of Ibori (l) and Alamieyeseigha (r)

The police say they have secured court orders to freeze assets in excess of $70m proven to be the proceeds of crime.

Lawyers acting for Nigeria can recover the stolen monies through civil actions.

One cheque for $2m belonging to Mr Alamieyeseigha has already been returned to Nigeria.

The former Bayelsa governor pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Nigeria and was sentenced to two years in prison, but was released within hours because of time served.

Accomplice jailed

An alleged credit card fraud in January 2004 sparked the UK investigation.

The trail led to Mr Dariye and police discovered that vast sums of government money had been diverted into several British bank accounts to purchase expensive property in London under false names.

His accomplice, Joyce Oyebanjo, who Mr Dariye made a guardian of his children, was convicted in April 2007 of using numerous accounts in her own name to launder large sums of money.

Ms Oyebanjo is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in the UK and has until June 2008 to refund to Nigeria a further $400,000 or her sentence will be extended by a further 2.5 years.

Hers was the first successful conviction achieved by a specialist unit known as the International Corruption Group, specifically created to investigate the laundering of criminal funds in London by corrupt overseas officials and part-funded by the Department of International Development.

At the time of Ms Oyebanjo's conviction, the UK's International Development Secretary Hilary Benn pledged, "This money has been seized and now should be returned to the Nigerian people."

All three former governors meanwhile remain wanted men in London where the criminal investigations are continuing.

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