A court in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday convicted Abba Abacha, one of the sons of late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, to two years imprisonment for belonging to a criminal organisation in the country.
Abba, who was given a suspended sentence, was not present at the sentencing and his plea for acquittal was dismissed, with the judge saying that even if he was under the influence of his father and brothers at the initial stage, “he was personally responsible for the opening of at least 20 bank accounts under assumed names, from which he benefited, and for overseeing these accounts.”
The court said further that after his father’s death Abba was actively engaged in managing the organisation’s money.
The Geneva Police Court had decided last month that the hearing could go ahead without Abacha and some of the witnesses who decided not to attend.
Abba, 41, was accused of plundering Nigeria’s accounts while his father was in power in the 1990s.The court said Abba was part of the family structure set up by his father to pillage Nigeria’s resources.
Abba has also been appealing against a 2009 guilty verdict and the subsequent court seizure of over $400 million in assets linked to his father who died in 1998, Swissinfo reported yesterday.
According to the lawyer representing Nigeria, Abacha stashed over $400 million in the Bahamas and Luxembourg – assets that will now be confiscated following the court’s decision.The Nigerian government is expected to ask for the funds to be handed over to it.Last month, Mohammed and Abba Abacha sued the federal government for the use of evidence that they claimed was obtained illegally from them by the Special Investigation Panel set up by the government and used against them in a criminal case in the court in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the originating summons, twenty-four corporations were also listed as plaintiffs in the case and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke was listed as the sole defendant.
In the suit in Nigeria, Mohammed and Abba claimed that they were not informed that the true purpose for which their statements were sought was to provide evidence for an investigation and their possible prosecution by the state of Jersey and the authorities of Leichtenstein, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France, the Bahamas and Switzerland.
“The plaintiffs were not advised on their right to consult a legal practitioner of their choice before making statements.
“No caution whatsoever was administered to the plaintiffs prior to the making of statements before the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Peter Gana,” their lawyers claimed.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to restrain the federal government from providing mutual assistance or requests for mutual assistance to any country based on the evidence (oral or documentary) obtained by or under the investigations of the SIP.
They also asked the court to restrain the Nigerian government from bringing or continuing any civil or criminal proceedings in Nigeria or foreign jurisdictions against them, based on the statements.
The federal government is also accused of reneging on a promise not to prosecute the Abacha family, even after it had forfeited about $625 million and 70 million pounds and some other assets in line with Decree 53 of 1999.
In its defence, the federal government described the suit as “frivolous, utterly baseless and completely misconceived.”
It asked the court to dismiss the suit, insisting that it was statute barred because “it was not filed within three months after the cause of action arose and that the court also lacks the jurisdiction to hear the suit.