10 January 2014

Nigeria: Abuja Property Haven for Money Laundering - EFCC

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, says property acquisitions in Abuja has become avenues for money laundering by unscrupulous persons. He said evidence of the trend was in the number of palatial but unoccupied houses that dot the Abuja landscape.

The EFCC boss, who was speaking during a courtesy visit to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, in Abuja on Thursday, January 9, stated that the Commission had uncovered money laundering schemes in the FCT in which the perpetrators disguised the proceeds of crime by investing in properties. He explained that those involved in this nefarious act do not purchase properties with bank instrument but prefer to pay for their acquisition with cash.

He further revealed that the laundered funds were frequently converted into foreign currencies through the Bureau de Change before the purchases were made.

He noted that such persons do not bother to change ownership after such acquisitions, making it difficult to verify the identities of the new owners or the sources of fund.

He disclosed that over 270 cases of land scam were reported to the Commission in the last three years.

Mr. Lamorde noted that the Commission suspected insider abuse in some of the cases investigated and called on the minister to be prepared to initiate disciplinary action against erring officers.

In his response, the minister thanked the EFCC chairman for the visit and commended the Commission for its effort to stamp out corruption in the FCT.

"Without anti corruption agencies like the EFCC, ICPC, I am not sure how the FCT would have been ranked and so we will continue to give the commission support in order to build a vibrant relationship where it won't be business as usual," Mr. Mohammed said.

He disclosed that the commission had supported the Abuja Administration in terms of arresting the scourge of corruption and leakages in the FCT especially on land premiums. He said the most brazen of the vices was land fraud and that the EFCC has assisted by arresting and prosecuting those involved.

"It is sad that the capital territory as a jurisdiction is used as a citadel of corruption and also for perpetuating acts of corruption. People from the states and local government illegally acquire money and come to get it hidden in the FCT through acquisition of properties that are not registered and that is a big concern because it is depriving the FCT of the revenue needed and increasing corruption in the Capital Territory. It is also increasing security challenges because most of the houses acquired are left vacant and we have no means of knowing who owns them," he said.

The minister disclosed that the FCTA was working with the Abuja Geographical Information System, AGIS, to upgrade their system in such a manner that it would be difficult for anybody to impersonate, manipulate or forge land documents. He however lamented that some former employees of the authority were duping unsuspecting but desperate members of the public while posing as staff of the FCT Administration.

The EFCC chairman was accompanied on the visit by senior management staff of the agency including the Director, Organisational Support, Bolaji Salami; Director of Operations, Olaolu Adegbite; Director of Legal and Prosecution, Chile Okoroma; and Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Osita Nwajah.

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