Further legal assistance files handed over in Abacha case

Guarantees of a fair trial in Nigeria

Press Release, FOJ, 19.08.2003

Bern / Geneva, 19 August 2003. The Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) today handed over further legal assistance files in the Abacha case to Nigeria's legal representative. The documents are mainly bank documents concerning relatives of the former Nigerian head of state Sani Abacha.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court declared in its ruling of 23 April 2003 that legal assistance could be granted to Nigeria, although it made the handover of documents concerning persons living in Nigeria conditional upon trial-related guarantees. In a diplomatic memorandum dated 25 June 2003, the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave assurances of fair criminal proceedings in accordance with the principles of the UN Pact on Civil and Political Rights. Once the FoJ had declared these guarantees to be satisfactory and in the absence of appeals against its decision to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the bank documents seized in Geneva and Zurich could be handed over. The FoJ previously surrendered legal assistance files to Nigeria on 21 June 2002. The documents in this case concerned those persons who had not appealed against the FoJ's final rulings in favour of providing information.

The USD 618 million of assets frozen in Switzerland in the context of criminal proceedings in Geneva and partly in connection with the legal assistance process remain blocked. However, following the Swiss Federal Supreme Court's fundamental approval of legal assistance, the Swiss authorities are also prepared to work with Nigeria towards the restitution of assets.

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