asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are attempting to freeze funds placed with British financial institutions by each of the following and their families:
until their rightful ownership can be established; and if so, of what amounts. [HL253]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)
Her Majesty's Government remains committed to assisting designated foreign countries which request the freezing of illegally obtained assets, but it can only act when it receives a valid request. Such requests, once they have been submitted to the Home Office, are processed expeditiously, and passed to the appropriate authorities for execution. Additionally, the Home Office is working with the Department for International Development to strengthen arrangements to enable overseas governments to pursue claims to evidence and assets more effectively. This was announced in paragraph 67 of the recent White Paper Eliminating World Poverty (Cnmd. 5006).Requests for assistance in criminal matters are confidential communications between two slates, and in normal circumstances I would neither confirm nor deny that the Home Office has received any such requests relating to the subjects listed, except in the case of General Abacha. I must emphasise that it is not appropriate to provide a warning of likely asset freezing, since this might enable the assets to be moved. However, in recognition of the public interest in these particular cases, I can, exceptionally, state that no request has been received in respect of the other parties listed.There has, however, been widespread press coverage of the request the Home Office has received from Nigeria for freezing of funds in relation to General Abacha. For further information relating to this request, I refer the noble Lord to the reply Lord Bassam gave Lord Moynihan on 2 November 2000,
Official Report, col. WA 111. I should add that the position remains as it was at the time of that answer, and we are still awaiting clarification of the matters referred to therein.