Corruption Hunters! SCSC alumni team up to recover and return illicit assets in Nigeria

Former Sussex students, Jonathan Benton and David Ugolor, are now actively taking the anti-corruption fight forward in Nigeria. They explain more about their work here.

We’re into the third year of President Buhari’s term in office, elections loom. For those not familiar with Nigerian politics, President Buhari was elected fair and square on an anti-corruption ticket. The last lot were awful. I (Jonathan) know, I investigated the person who was undoubtedly the most powerful woman in Nigeria (at the time), Diezani Alison Madueke, the former oil minister. Former Central Bank Governor, now the Emir of Kano State, Saraki, put the loss in oil revenues from corruption during her term in office at US$40bn. That’s right, $40bn!

David and I were post-graduates under Prof. Dan Hough and Dr Liz David-Barrett’s tutelage. Prior to Sussex, we were both active anti-corruption professionals, Sussex honed, tamed and educated us. David has over a quarter of a century of anti-corruption campaigning under his belt. I was a Scotland Yard detective who landed the best job in the world, head of the UK’s grand corruption and illicit money flows enforcement unit – the Proceeds of Corruption Unit, later the International Corruption Unit. It was such an amazing job I stayed there for nearly a decade.

We’re both still fighting corruption. David leads the civil society movement that is ensuring that the assets repatriated as a result of investigations in Switzerland, the US and UK are returned to those who need them – those denied basic public services because their elites lined their own pockets first.

We’re now in Abuja together, working out what we’re going to do next. David has built an awesome web-based property tracker – – it does what it says on the tin. It tracks property, that is, property owned by elites. Yes, the ultra high-value villas in smart areas of Abuja that have been, somehow, bought by senior politicians, military personnel and so on, all supposedly on their modest state salaries. It is awesome.

We’ve grand ideas for the next phase. I’m fortunate to have a network of former Scotland Yard financial investigators in London to work with. All have been with me investigating corruption in Nigeria and the illicit money flows to London (and beyond). By helping to hide the loot, London has been – and still is in part – “fantastically corrupt”, to use the phrase former UK prime minister David Cameron used of other countries. We’re going to continue to expose it, ensure law enforcement and prosecutors take their illicit gains off them, and David’s team will make sure it goes back to the people from which it was stolen from. Corruption hunters. Thank you Liz and Dan, you’ve helped us on that journey.

Jonathan Benton and David Ugolor

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