NIGERIA – The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu recently warned compliance officers in banks against colluding with politicians who are repatriating stolen funds for general elections.
He said the EFCC has uncovered a top politician who sold a choice property abroad with plans to repatriate the proceeds for electoral inducement; and asked the officers to report suspicious transactions in a timely manner to anti-corruption agencies.
Magu gave the warning in Lagos at a session with the Association of Compliance Officers.
In the text of his speech which was released to newsmen in Abuja, he urged bankers to stop laundering funds for politicians.
He said: “I deem this forum as very important to serve as a means to communicate to you the observations of the EFCC on the various activities of financial institutions and the deliberate connivance and collusion of most of the banks in laundering illicit funds for criminals as well as politicians.
“We are not ignorant of the prevailing electioneering activities going on in the country today and the efforts being made by many politicians who had stolen our commonwealth to repatriate to Nigeria these stolen funds for the purpose of influencing the elections through vote buying and compromise of election officers to do their bidding, as well as engage in various other illicit activities calculated to undermined the integrity of the elections.
“The impact of allowing these elements to compromise our elections will be grievous, and devastating, we must as such and as a matter of urgency team up together to ensure that these elections are not compromised in any form or manner.
“We are all under a civic duty to comply with our various responsibilities and ensure that we do the needful to obey the laws and regulations governing the elections.”
The EFCC chairman spoke on the desperate methods being employed by some politicians to repatriate illicit funds into the country.
He said the anti-graft commission has received an intelligence report on how a top politician sold a property abroad to finance elections at home.
He said: “Foreign properties bought with proceeds of crime are sold and the proceeds transferred to Nigeria through international banks as legitimate funds that can be used to finance several activities including elections.
Recently we have received intelligence report from a sister agency in another country informing us of a top Nigerian politician who has sold his property in that country and intends to repatriate the proceeds of the sale of the property to Nigeria. This same individual had earlier denied ownership of the said property.
“Goods bought with proceeds of crime abroad are sent to Nigeria to support empowerment programs during elections periods. The goods are mostly cleared with deficient trade documents processed through the international banks.
“Moving proceeds of crime earlier taken across border to neighbouring countries back to Nigeria by depositing such funds in Banks with corresponding banking relationship with local banks in Nigeria. “These funds can be used to finance elections in the country by physical distribution of the funds for political inducement or financing empowerment schemes to solicit votes from citizens.
“Private Bankers for international banks facilitate the movement of proceeds of crime i.e. physical movements of cash to the country via charted airlines in the guise of the Bank.
“International Banks facilitate the purchase of assets such as airlines from foreign jurisdictions that are brought to the country for elections purpose.
Magu said inducement of voters attracts a 12-month imprisonment or a fine of N100, 000.
He added: “Let me remind you that the provisions of the Nigerian Electoral Act, 2010, Article 130, provide that:
“A person who- Corruptly by himself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or
“Being a voter, corruptly or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraphs (a) of this Section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N 100,000.00 or 12 months imprisonment or both.”
The EFCC chairman pleaded with compliance officers to serve as responsible gatekeepers by reporting suspicious transactions.
He said: “While vote buying is subject to punishment, the attainment of compliance to this legal obligation remains the challenge and it is our responsibility to prevent these crimes.
“We have come to realize that political inducement has now taken other forms and tagged in different names, i.e. Stomach Infrastructure, empowerment schemes, non-interest yielding loans, outright cash handouts etc.
“These inducements take place during or before the day of the elections, which makes it rather difficult for law enforcement agencies to track.
“Because you are the gate keepers, you must keep your eyes open to these inducement schemes, your obligations are not different from your usual filing of suspicious transactions reports to the relevant authorities, and the prompt filing of currency transaction reports as well as foreign transaction reports.
“We have also observed the upsurge of illicit financial flows into the country through the borders and it is disheartening to see the role financial institutions play in either facilitating the flows of these funds into the country.
“It is obvious now that financial Institutions serve as intermediaries between law enforcement agencies and the criminals, at a simple push of the button so much is moved to any jurisdiction of their choice.
“It is a known fact that no country can combat the flow of illicit funds without the cooperation of financial institutions, because in most cases it is the financial institutions that provide the means, logistics and strategy the criminals to tread on.
“Some methods which we came across in the course of our various investigations on repatriation of funds back to the country, that were successfully moved off shore and are being ploughed back into the Nigeria Economy include;
“These activities of the criminals can be checkmated by increase transaction monitoring by the Bank officers and reporting suspicious transactions to the relevant agencies timely. Establishing customer due diligence and enhanced due diligence for politically exposed persons.
“It is our collective responsibility to make the system work and to ensure that criminals are not given the chance to take over government and by extension the economy of the country.Whatever you do wrong or allow today may come back to haunt you.
“Be rest assured that, we on our part are committed to investigate and prosecute anybody or institution found breaching the provisions of the law but in the same vein we will work with you if you desire to partner with us.