The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says ahead of the 2023 elections, it will take the war against money laundering by politicians to lawyers, accountants, professionals and other designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPS).
The Chairman of the Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa said this on Tuesday at a workshop on financial crimes reporting organised by the Commission for some selected journalists in Lagos.
Bawa said the commission was stepping up its investigations of the DNFBPS through its Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) under the newly enacted Money Laundering Prohibition and Prevention Act, 2022.
”There are certain provisions of this new law that I believe will affect you directly or indirectly. One is the secrecy of financial transactions. The new law criminalizes the operations of numbered accounts and also mandates financial institutions to ascertain the beneficial owners of accounts before opening such accounts.
”There is a more robust requirement for due diligence and reporting obligation by financial institutions and non-financial businesses and professions to the SCUML,” he added.
On the 2023 general elections, Bawa said the commission was beaming its searchlight on some politicians.
He also said that the commission was taking an interest in the activities of some lawyers, accountants, tax consultants, real estate agents, construction companies, car dealers, precious stone dealers and some others as its investigations showed that they had become gatekeepers of money laundering.
Bawa said, ”we can’t afford to have criminals hijacking our own political process. if they have some funds that they want to channel from there, we have to block them…very important and very critical, because the work we are doing is for the betterment of this country and we need to ensure that we have only legitimate sources of funds in our political process so we can elect our right leaders.
”But what we have seen time and time again is that some funds that are finding their way to lawyers’ accounts are monies taken there for the purpose of laundering and we have quite a number of cases to show for it”.
”They can hide under the guise of payment of fees to do that but at the end of the day, investigations will show whether the payment is for legal fees or otherwise. they are getting smarter, and we too are getting smarter. Luckily for us, we have Polygraph and if you consent to it, we do a polygraph and you will tell us the truth.
”We have seen for instance a legal practitioner that he is the one paying for tickets, school fees, and almost everything for his client so what are we talking about here and it’s not something peculiar to Nigeria and that’s why we say Nigeria should not be left out in global best practises regarding legal practitioners making currency transaction reports on their clients activities.
Bawa also revealed that the EFCC had recorded over 2,701 convictions as at October 7, 2022.
He said, “In 2021, the commission secured 2,220 convictions. This has jumped to 2,701 by October 7, 2022. Assets running into several billions of naira have also been recovered by the commission. In spite of this, we are not resting on our laurels because there is more ground to be covered. we believe more needs to be done to deter citizens from getting involved in financial crimes and discourage the theft of public resources.
”It is for this reason we are intensifying our public enlightenment engagements, which in a few weeks time will witness the formal launch of the EFCC radio.”