$600 Billion Has Been Stolen From Nigeria Since 1960. Report Says It’s Getting Harder For African Kleptocrats To Hide Cash
African kleptocrats are finding it more difficult to stash cash in the West. Anti-corruption campaigners and journalists have stepped up reporting to uncover stolen public assets while western governments have strengthened up money-laundering laws and bribery laws.
In Nigeria alone, more than $600 billion has been stolen since independence in 1960, with former military ruler Sani Abacha looting more than $4.3 billion while in office.
Switzerland, a favorite safe haven for corrupt African leaders, returned up to $1.7 billion in cash and assets to Nigeria and other African countries in the 15 years to 2015, according to Hans-Rudolf Hodel, Switzerland’s ambassador to Nigeria. This included $700 million stolen by Abacha.
Swiss banks receive more than $150 billion from Africa every year, mostly from public funds stolen by corrupt government officials, consultancy firm African Intelligence estimates. The country’s Swiss-franc denominated assets are considered a safe haven.
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Other dictators who have hidden their money in Swiss bank accounts include former Democratic Republic of Congo ruler Mobutu Seseko, and Egypt’s deposed president Hosni Mubarak and his sons.
Nigeria, Egypt, Seychelles and South Africa are among the top countries in Africa with accounts in the European safe haven.
Western countries have shifted to negative interest rates in recent years, which has reduced the appeal for looters seeking a place to hide their stash.
The explosive Panama Papers contained 11.5 million documents held by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. They revealed information about offshore secret bank accounts and transactions of hundreds of thousands of the firm’s clients who were evading taxes.