Banks got a stern warning yesterday not to collude with politicians who are repatriating stolen funds for the general elections.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu said the Commission was aware that a top politician who sold a choice property abroad planned to repatriate the proceeds for electoral inducement.
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 reporters 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 electoral officers to do their bidding, as well as engage in various other illicit activities calculated to undermine 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 had 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 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 programmes during elections. 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 chartered airlines in the guise of the bank.”
Magu said that the inducement of voters attracts a 12-month imprisonment or a fine of N100, 000.
He remind his audience of 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 realise 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.”