EFCC Seizes N50bn Assets From Ex-Gov

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EFCC Seizes N50bn Assets From Ex-Gov

Postby Richard Akindele » Fri Aug 11, 2006 5:00 pm

IT was a day of stunning revelations, yesterday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when its chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, said the organisation had confiscated assets and monies in excess of N50 billion from a former state governor.

Mallam Ribadu in a lecture on "Combating Money Laundering in Emerging Economies: Nigeria as a case study," in Lagos also said one of the incumbent governors had vowed to get him killed and had even been organising prayer sessions to fulfil the mission.

Besides, he said over N5 billion was found in the bank account of a pastor who died in a recent plane crash in the country while another pastor was found to have built or acquired 40 houses in Abuja.

Churches, he said, had been turned to business places, rather then places of worship which they are supposed to be.

In the lecture which came up under the 7th Guest Lecture series of the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), Mallam Ribadu took a swipe at the banks, saying they were neck deep in money laundering.

He vowed to go after them. Indeed, he cited an unnamed "prominent" bank managing director who according to him, would soon be picked up for interrogation.

He said some financial institutions have continued to provide safe havens for money launderers, warning however, that EFCC was on the trail of such institutions. He noted that in their bids to expand their business, some banks were aiding looters of government treasury by recieving such loots as deposits in their banks.

He said without the connivance of such banks, money launderers would find it difficult to cover up their activities. "We are going after bank officials who connive with government officials to steal money. Very soon, we will arrest the managing director of one of the big banks," he added.

He said money laundering was not restricted to the activities of drug business alone, noting that those who steal government money and divert same to attain political power should also be treated as money launderers.

Nigeria, according to him, lost an estimated $60 billion ($12 billion annually) over the last five years as a result of its listing on the Non Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCTs) list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2001 due to money laundering activities and other corrupt practices.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body created in 1989 for the purpose of developing and promoting national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

He pointed out in particular, that the country lost big potential foreign investment during the banking sector consolidation as a result of the FATF NCCTs listing, noting: "We would have had more foreign investment."

He said EFCC was created in 2003 primarily to enforce the anti-money laundering law in Nigeria occasioned by the FATF listing of Nigeria on the NCCTs list in 2001 and that the country had made appreciable progress in this regard.

FATF removed Nigeria from its list of countries and territories that are non co-operative in the international community's efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing on June 23, 2006.

Ribadu also said the commission had facilitated the seizure and confiscation of assets worth over $5 billion (about N640 billion) and refunded to government agencies, private sector institutions and victims of crime around the world.

He said the fight against money laundering constituted a ground for securing debt relief from the Paris Club of Creditors last year. "In the past three years, over 5,000 people have been arrested and investigated for various crimes within the purview of the commission and we have recorded 82 convictions for corruption, money laundering, advance fee fraud, pipe vandalisation and terrorism with some of them involving top government functionaries," he said.

He did not spare churches some of which he said had become money-making ventures. "Churches are the biggest businesses in the country where people make easy money for themselves," he said.

Ribadu called for attitudinal changes on the part of Nigerian leaders, particularly traditional and church leaders if corruption must stop in the country. "Traditional and church leaders must change their ways because of their large followers who obey and emulate them," he said.

The EFCC boss said his commission was ready and had the apparatus to investigate sources of all funds moving within the shores of the country, adding that the lust for money was the cause of the moral decadence in the country and that if the craze for wealth was minimised, the country would be a better place.

Ribadu said the craze for wealth by the citizens had made the country poorer in spite of its abundant natural resources. "Nigeria is a country that has made so much money, but has nothing to show for it. A lot of money has gone to waste and transferred out of the country. Nigeria is a country of unbelievable abundant opportunities which have been wasted due to mismanagement," he said.

In his opening remarks at the occasion, Chairman, Governing Council of FITC, Mr. Tunde Lemo, who is also the Deputy Governor, Financial Sector Surveillance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said the war against money laundering should not be left to be fought by the EFCC alone, urging all stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise to join hands to fight the menace.

Richard Akindele
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