AFP quoted the Justice Department as saying on Wednesday that the corruption proceeds – stashed away in bank accounts in Britain, France and Jersey – were frozen at Washington’s request with the help of local authorities.
Abacha died in office in 1998, but his surviving relatives still include some of the richest and most influential figures in Nigeria.
According to a civil forfeiture complaint unsealed in the US District Court in Washington, the department wants to recover more than $550m in connection with the action.
“This is the largest civil forfeiture action to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption ever brought by the department,” said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general.
“General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled billions from the people of Nigeria, while millions lived in poverty,” she said.