WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the United States for help in returning stolen Nigerian assets stashed in U.S. banks as part of his efforts to crack down on corruption, according to a statement from his office on Thursday.
Buhari made the request during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of a two-day nuclear security summit in Washington.
“President Buhari sought and received an assurance from Mr. Kerry that the United States Government will facilitate the repatriation of all stolen Nigerian funds found within the American banking system,” his office said.
Buhari told Kerry it would “greatly help our country if you assist us to recover all our stolen funds which we can establish to be within your financial system,” according to the statement.
It said Kerry assured Buhari the United States would help and said U.S. officials would meet with the head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to discuss further cooperation.
State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that Kerry had offered “continued U.S. support to locate and help with tracing and investigating looted funds, as we have done for Nigeria in the past.”
In 2014 the United States took control of more than $480 million that former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates had siphoned away into banks around the world.
Washington has broad powers to track suspicious funds and enforce sanctions against individuals.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Tom Brown