Banks are shielding corrupt persons by doctoring or hiding relevant information on them and their transactions, thereby undermining the work of anti-corruption officials, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said.
Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, who was speaking yesterday in Abuja at a meeting with officials of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, said this behavior of the banks is sabotaging the EFCC.
Anti-money laundering laws require banks to turn in information on "suspicious" transactions to the EFCC, and the banks routinely post notices in their premises warning customers that certain funds movements would be reported to the authorities.
But Lamorde said yesterday that banks play hide-and-seek with investigators seeking statements of account of some suspects.
"If you send letter to the bank to avail you the details of such account, the reply you will get is that such account does not exist. If you insist, then you will be told that such records are not on the front desk, that it is only the managing director or the deputy managing director that manages the account. This is not a healthy banking development," he said.
Lamorde listed other unethical practices to include "the secrecy surrounding private banking, doctoring or non-disclosure of true position of statement of accounts of suspicious account holders and non-compliance with Know-Your-Customer, KYC, principle," a statement by EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said.
The EFCC chairman said while he appreciated the need for the banks to protect their customers, this must not be to the extent that it would harm the society in general.
"We want our society to be better. Nobody would want to be treated in an unfair manner outside the shores of this country just because he/she is carrying a green passport," he said, referring to the Nigerian international passport.
Earlier, CIBN president Segun Aina urged the EFCC to enforce the Dishonour Cheque Offences Act, which prescribes penalties for issuers of bounced cheques.
"The law is there, but people issue cheques and the cheques get bounced and nothing happens. We want to collaborate with the EFCC to ensure that the law is enforced," he said.
Aina said private banking is an arrangement where the banks gives special services to some customers who are not expected to join the queue in the banking hall, but added that there was no reason for secrecy over such accounts.
"There is no reason why the account of such customers should be made secretive and not be made available to the EFCC upon request," he said.