Friends of the FCPA Blog — Sandy Sierck and Nick Diamond, who represent the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project in Nigeria — have another good idea. For years, SERAP has been petitioning the DOJ and SEC to return enforcement revenues to the real victims of overseas corruption: the citizens of the corrupt governments. Their latest proposal is a slam dunk.
You’ll recall that the DOJ, to its great credit, recently seized $458 million from the global bank accounts of Nigeria’s former dictator and five-star kleptocrat, Sani Abachi, under its Kleptocracy Initiative. In this letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, SERAP asks the DOJ to repatriate at least a portion of that money to the Nigerian people from whom it was stolen. They propose using the funds to finance a project of some kind to benefit the public.
We’ve done this before, and with great success. Remember that back in 2007, the DOJ retrieved $84 million that James Giffen had used to bribe high-ranking Kazakhstani officials on behalf of western oil companies. The DOJ then used that money — ALL of it — to create The BOTA Foundation, an NGO that improves the lives of poor children and families in Kazakhstan through investment in health, education, and social welfare. By all accounts their work has been extraordinarily successful and, notably, substantially corruption-free. Wisely, the DOJ kept the funds out of the corrupt government’s hands, instead giving them to a private NGO with corruption safeguards in place. And it worked.
Is there any reason why we should not now do the same for Nigeria?
It might be said that using enforcement revenues to benefit actual victims is the next frontier of anti-corruption enforcement. The momentum is building. And SERAP deserves much of the credit. The U.S. DOJ has historically been a world leader in anti-corruption enforcement; let’s hope it exercises that same leadership now.
Andy Spalding is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.