Under the rule of the Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha more than 20 years ago, a handful of high-ranking government officials looted billions of dollars from the country’s coffers.
Now the Nigerian government is demanding some of its money back — from JPMorgan Chase.
In a British court, lawyers for the country are suing a subsidiary of the largest United States bank, charging that it enabled corrupt former officials to extract nearly $900 million between 2011 and 2013 from a government bank account in London.
At the heart of the case is whether JPMorgan did enough to safeguard Nigeria’s money. Under British law, banks are required to act in their customers’ best interests, even if someone connected to a customer tries to get them to do otherwise.
In the London lawsuit, the Nigerian government is seeking damages from JPMorgan of nearly $900 million.
The bank’s decision to do business with Nigeria — a country that is ranked 144th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption list — involved a calculation of risk.
A JPMorgan spokesman said it would fight Nigeria’s legal claim, which “is completely without merit.”