Ajay and Atul Gupta. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/Gallo Images
Ajay and Atul Gupta. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/Gallo Images

More than two decades after the death of dictator Sani Abacha, the Nigerian government is still trying to claw back the $3bn-$5bn that he siphoned from the state in just five years in power — money he apparently laundered through banks in the US, Switzerland, France and the UK.

Some of that is now trickling in. Last week, the US and tax haven Jersey agreed with Nigeria to return more than $300m — with various fail-safes to prevent its reappropriation by a new set of venal politicians. It’s the latest in a series of slow gains: by 2013, R1.3bn had been recovered from various jurisdictions; in 2017 the Swiss agreed to hand over a further $321m; and Reuters reports that the US is looking to enforce judgments for an additional $170m in the UK and France.

Meanwhile, a French court has told Equatorial Guinea vice-president and first son Teodorin Obiang to cough up €30m for embezzling public funds – a fine that had been suspended for three years, until the kleptocratic heir-apparent pushed his luck with an appeal.

In all, it’s good news. But the lengthy delays in action, and costly battles involved, suggest meaningful accountability is still a long way off.

How long, one wonders, before SA can finalise its mutual legal assistance agreement with Dubai, and the state goes calling on the Guptas.