By Philomina Attah
Mathew Page, an associate fellow of Chatham House, London, has advised Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) investigators to focus on real estate and education sectors, when tracking illicit financial flows and money laundering.
He gave the advise in a paper he presented entitled “IFFs through the Real Estate and Education Sectors: Implications for Investigators” at a capacity building forum for ICPC investigators on investigating Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), on Tuesday, in Abuja.
Page stressed that focusing on the two sectors had become necessary as IFFs had provided opportunities for politically exposed persons (PEPs) in Nigeria to launder money through real estate and education sectors.
“Most of the property held by Nigerian politicians in London and Dubai are held by proxies, family and shell companies.
“Over 800 property worth over $400 million have been linked to Nigerian PEPs,” Page said.
Speaking earlier, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, the ICPC Chairman, said that the capacity building programme would help investigators to track illicit financial flows, money laundering and other areas the government was losing revenue and recover such funds.
“The loss of revenue is a major challenge to developing countries, particularly Nigeria.
“The meeting is therefore designed to build the capacity of our investigators to enable them trace the areas in which the government is losing money.
“One of the takeaways from here is the kind of question an investigator needs to ask in tracking IFFs and money laundering,” Owasanoye explained.
“Also, to look for the likely places people hide money, stop the illicit financial flows, and recover the funds.
“We are already working with the FIRS and getting a lot of tax evaders and defaulters into the nation’s tax net”, he added.
He stressed the need to widen the revenue base, improve tax collection, combat tax evasion and illicit financial flows, as well as asset recovery to improve the country’s finances.
Fielding questions from journalists at the end of the forum, Owasanoye said that the commission had dragged about 2000 corporate entities into the country’s tax net, following investigations it conducted and that the names of the entities had since been forwarded to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for profiling.
“Some of these entities are not registered and do not pay tax, while others are registered but still do not pay tax.
“The ICPC has been able to recover significant amounts in taxes for the government,” he said.
The Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on stopping IFFs from Nigeria, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, assured that the committee was working assiduously to curb the menace from the country.
“We know the challenge and negative impact of IFFs in Nigeria and Africa. The Federal Government established the committee towards promoting financial transparency and accountability.
“It was in line with the recommendations of the findings of a high level Africa Union Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) led by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki.
“The findings also include coordinating and tracking progress in stemming illicit financial flows from Nigeria.
“The Committee is establishing cooperation amongst relevant agencies in order to substantially reduce and eventually eliminate illicit financial flows from Nigeria.
“And to make recommendations to the Federal Government on required improvements in legislation, rules and processes for the purposes of tackling illicit financial flows from Nigeria amongst others.”
He advised African countries to build the capacity of their investigators in tracking illicit financial flows in order to curb annual revenue losses.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that besides Page, two other resource persons, Prof. Melvin Ayogu of Emory University, and Matthew Gbonjubola of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, presented papers at the forum.