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US to Return $23 Million Looted by Late Nigerian Dictator

FILE - In this file photo taken March 21, 1998, late Nigeria President Gen. Sani Abacha, left, attends an event in Abuja, Nigeria.

The U.S. will return to Nigeria $23 million seized by former military dictator Sani Abacha, officials announced during a signing ceremony on Tuesday.

The United States and Nigeria reached an agreement on Tuesday to return about $23 million in assets stolen by former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha, according to the U.S. department of Justice.

The agreement signed in Abuja, Nigeria, by U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard "will bring the total amount forfeited and returned by the Department of Justice in this case to approximately $334.7 million," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release Tuesday.

Leonard said the cash was in UK accounts but was identified and frozen by U.S. officials.

Abacha ruled Africa's most populous nation and top oil exporter from 1993 until his death in 1998, during which time Transparency International estimated that he took up to $5 billion of public money. He was never charged.

Nigeria's Attorney General Abubakar Malami said the funds would be used for infrastructure projects, including the Abuja-Kano road, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the second Niger bridge under the supervision of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

"The president's mandate to my office is to ensure that all international recoveries are transparently invested and monitored by civil society organizations to compete for these three projects within the agreed timeline," Malami said.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division said the return of the looted funds "reflects the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to recover and return corruption proceeds laundered through the U.S. financial system.”