While many of his people lived in squalor, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko shopped, visited doctors and kept palatial villas in France and Switzerland. When Mobutu died in 1997, having been ousted after more than 30 years in power, many assumed that there was a fortune to be recovered. But little was found in Western bank accounts linked to him. "I just don't think there was very much left," said Richard Dowden, head of Britain's Royal African Society. "He had to pay off a lot of people. I think his family robbed him rotten. So there wasn't a great heap of wealth to be found."


After Mwai Kibaki won the presidency in 2002 on an anti-corruption platform, his aides estimated that as much as $4 billion in government assets had been stolen and spirited abroad under his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi. Kroll Associates, an international security and investigations firm, was brought in to trace the funds. Kroll and the government report that some money was found, but won't say more, and efforts to bring it home have stalled. Kibaki may be finding it politically difficult to proceed against Moi, who remains a powerful figure with an involvement in peace efforts in neighboring Sudan. Also, Kibaki has problems with allegations of corruption within his own government.


Not only is ousted President Charles Taylor accused of looting the Liberian treasury during his 1997-2003 tenure, but businesses linked to him are believed to still be funneling cash stolen from state coffers to the former warlord in exile in Nigeria. Little has been done about it under a transitional government, itself accused of corruption, that is to hand power over to an elected government this year. According to U.N. investigators, the "modus operandi followed by the top functionaries of the [transitional] government in siphoning off government revenues for various licit or illicit purposes appears to be the same as that used by the Taylor regime."


The government says military dictator Sani Abacha stole more than $2.2 billion from the oil-rich nation from 1993, when he seized power, until his death in 1998. Using diplomacy and the courts, Nigeria has been pushing with some success for the return of Abacha's looted funds from Austria, Britain, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland and elsewhere.


Former president Frederick Chiluba is charged in Zambian courts with 169 counts of corruption, abuse of power and theft totaling $43 million, and 65 counts of state theft totaling about $3.5 million. Last year, a London court, at the request of Zambian prosecutors, froze $24 million in assets held by Chiluba in Britain. Chiluba, Zambia's first democratically elected president, led the southern African country from 1991 until 2002.

-- Associated Press