HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 c580W
Mr. Colman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reasons he has not responded to requests for documentation sought by the Nigerian Government in connection with funds believed to have been stolen from the country by the late Sani Abacha; and what steps the Government are taking to assist Nigeria in repatriating these funds. [131987]

Caroline Flint

We are still awaiting receipt of information from the Federal Government of Nigeria, requested a year ago that will permit me to make a fully informed decision on transmission of the requested evidence to them. There are court orders that have been issued in Nigeria, which have the apparent effect of precluding the Nigerian authorities from pursuing the mutual legal assistance requests it has issued. We are awaiting confirmation from the Federal Government of Nigeria that those court orders have been lifted or overturned on appeal by them. The Federal Government of Nigeria has confirmed through their solicitors in the United Kingdom that although they contest the validity of those judgments, they would comply with them so long as they remained in force.

In the light of a previous judicial review, it has been made clear that to attempt to transmit the evidence when such court orders were apparently outstanding would leave my discretionary decision liable to being overturned on judicial review. Equally, it would serve no purpose to transmit evidence to Federal Government of Nigeria that they may not be able to use in their criminal proceedings. We prefer to await the outcome of those proceedings before transmitting the requested evidence. We are also not in a position to repatriate any funds that may be in the United Kingdom until the outstanding matters have been addressed by them. We have not been asked to enforce Nigerian confiscation orders in this case.