REPATRIATION OF STOLEN FUNDS HAS BEEN A VERY BIG CHALLENGE – VP. OSIBANJO
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on Saturday, expressed Nigeria’s frustration in its efforts to repatriate its stolen funds stashed in many developed nations.
Osinbajo said this in Abuja while declaring open the 18th Ministerial Committee Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (also known as GIABA).
GIABA styled after the global body, the Financial Action Task Force, was established by the Economic Community of West African States in 2000 to help in strengthening the capacity of the 18-member states towards the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.
Osinbajo regretted that despite the set objectives of FATF, the assets looted from Nigeria were being held by some member nations of the body, which Nigeria is still striving to join.
He called on FATF countries to ensure the smooth repatriation of proceeds of corruption to the nations from where they were stolen.
He said, “Permit me to raise a matter of considerable importance to many of our nations. It is the difficulty we experience in repatriating proceeds of corruption from financial institutions of the more developed nations.
“Despite numerous mutual legal assistance, treaties and conventions, it is obvious that we are not making the sort of progress we expect to see.
“It is unconscionable, in our view, to have stolen funds in a bank within the jurisdiction of a FATF country and to have to go through a rigorous obstacle course to retrieve the funds and even when such funds are to be returned after several years, humiliating conditions are attached.
“It is the view of Nigeria that FATF countries must, as a matter of respect for the spirit of our collaboration, and with the same efficiency and zero tolerance for quibbling, ensure the smooth repatriation of proceeds of corruption to the economies from where they were stolen.”
He also challenged the members of G8, the group of the eight largest economies and democracies in the world, and also G20, to initiate actions to end corporate secrecy so that global anti-money measures would achieve the best of results.
He said the revelations in Panama Papers and recently Paradise Papers, both of which millions of leaked documents revealed offshore investments in tax havens, underscored the global challenge of corporate secrecy.
Osinbajo stated, “The other issue is the risk of the dangers posed by anonymous corporate ownership. If nothing else, the Panama Papers and now the Paradise papers clearly illustrate the global scale and spread of this problem. So this is a global challenge and nothing less than a truly global approach will be needed to tackle it.”
The Director-General of GIABA, Col. Adama Coulibaly (retd.), commended the court order recently freezing all accounts without Bank Verification Number in Nigeria.
But he said Nigeria must do more to ensure that the concerns raised by the Ergmont Group of Financial Intelligence, leading to the nation’s suspension by the body, were addressed.