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France putting former Nigeria oil minister on trial for money laundering

[JURIST] A former Nigeria [JURIST news archive] oil minister, Dan Etete, will stand trial in France to face money laundering charges, according to a report Sunday by the Journal du Dimanche [media website] newspaper. The money laundering is in connection with kickbacks suspected to have been paid by oil companies, including French company Elf-Aquitaine [Wikipedia backgrounder] and Canadian Addax Petroleum [corporate website], in exchange for drilling rights in Nigeria. Elf-Aquitaine, which is now a part of TotalFinaElf, was at the center of one of the largest judicial corruption inquiries in French history, which ended after seven years of investigations [DW report] in 2002. Three former executives were jailed in 2003 [Guardian report], after investigators suggested that around $530 million had been misappropriated by the company.

Etete, who served late Nigerian dictator Sani Abachafrom from 1993 to 1998 and now lives in England, has denied the charges. Investigations have swarmed around his numerous purchases of luxury properties in France, which totaled $19.5 million within a single year. Sunday's report said that the trial order was signed on Wednesday, but no date was mentioned. AFP has more.

The announcement of the trial is the latest in a string of corruption charges streaming out of Nigeria, with allegations [BBC report] being made both by and about senior political leaders. In the wake of new laws governing conduct in the Nigerian civil service a recent report [text] by Global Integrity, a DC based non-profit tracking governance and corruption trends worldwide, ranked Nigeria as "moderate", up from a "weak" integrity rating in 2004 [report text]. Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission reported last year that 31 of 36 Nigerian state governors are currently under investigation [VOA report] in an attempt to crack down on corruption [BBC report] domestically.

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