Long before he was elected governor, prosecutors in the United States and the United Kingdom said Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State was a bagman for the
Long before he was elected governor, prosecutors in the United States and the United Kingdom said Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State was a bagman for the infamous late military dictator, Sani Abacha, the relentless kleptocrat who stole an estimated $2.2 billion from the country’s coffers who died in 1998 and was a
Court documents revealed that Bagudu was the gas that powered Abacha’s extensive money laundering operations. Working with some members of his own family, top members of the regime and Mohammed, Abacha’s eldest son, prosecutors claimed the governor used an intricate network of phoney companies to siphon several millions of dollars from government treasury into offshore bank accounts operated by himself and the Abachas.
The money-laundering operations Bagudu ran on behalf of Abacha are well-documented in suits filed in the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey, a British Crown dependency in the Channel Islands. But what many Nigerians may not know was that Bagudu, who now enjoy immunity from prosecution by virtue of being a governor, was once arrested for his role in the Abacha money laundering enterprise and spent six months in a US federal detention.
Although British and American investigators believe Bagudu’s money-laundering operation spread across multiple jurisdictions and was broad, he needed the assistance of his wife and elder brother, Ibrahim. His preferred destination for concealing the illicit funds on behalf of the Abachas was Jersey. Bagudu’s attraction to Jersey was also the cause of his trouble.
In 2003, five years after the death of Abacha, it became clear that the military tyrant stole billions of dollars from the country’s treasury. Because some of these illicit funds were traced to Jersey. Authorities of the Island nation requested the help of US authorities to arrest and extradite Bagudu, who at the time had lived in Texas for three years. Bagudu was subsequently arrested and kept in federal detention for six months while awaiting extradition to Jersey to answer questions about funds traced to the account of Doraville Properties Corp. a company managed by Bagudu and Mohammed, with accounts at Deutsche Bank International, Jersey.
But before he was handed over to authorities at Jersey, Bagudu quickly negotiated a deal with the US and Jersey authorities to return more than $163 million of the allegedly laundered assets to Nigeria in exchange for Jersey’s withdrawal of the extradition request and his return to Nigeria, a court document revealed. The court document explained that after the US government filed a civil forfeiture of the assets in the said account, several people made claims to the assets all of which were struck out.
Following the deal with Jersey and the US government, Bagudu was released on bond and repatriated to Nigeria to face trial. Evidence gathered in Jersey and in Switzerland were also sent to Nigeria to aid Nigeria’s Attorney General in his trial. However, since his return, he has not been questioned over his involvement in the Abacha loot but was instead cleared to contest in three different election circles – one as a senator and two as governor – all of which he won.