The Federal Government is saddened over the difficulty being experienced in repatriating proceeds of corruption from financial institutions abroad, saying despite numerous mutual legal assistance, treaties and conventions, the progress expected is not being made.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said this in Abuja on Saturday at the commencement of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) 18th Ministerial Committee meeting.
He said it was unconscionable to have stolen funds in a bank within the jurisdiction of a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) country "and to have to go through a rigorous obstacle course to retrieve the funds and even when such funds are to be returned after several years, humiliating conditions are attached."
According to him, "It is the view of Nigeria that FATF countries must, as a matter of respect for the spirit of our collaboration and with the same efficiency and zero-tolerance for quibbling, ensure the smooth repatriation of proceeds of corruption to the economies from where they were stolen.
He said the devastating effects of official corruption was evident in the rundown schools and hospitals; potholed roads; under-equipped armies; subverted financial systems, and fragile democracies.
"At risk from money laundering especially the laundering of proceeds of corruption, and terrorist financing are the stability of our financial and political systems, and ultimately the development of our countries and the prosperity of our people. What this means is that we are dealing here with an existential threat – it’s either we wipe it out or it wipes us out. This should spur us to treat money laundering and other financial crimes with zero tolerance. We have for long enough affirmed our commitment as a sub-region to fighting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. We must now back this intent with forceful action and visible results.
"While we acknowledge the steps we have taken, individually and collectively, in recent years – implementing recommendations, strengthening institutions, building partnerships and collaborations – we cannot afford complacency at this time. This is actually the reason why we need to redouble our efforts, to shore up the political will required to apply and implement the laws and frameworks we have worked hard to develop.
"Information sharing is very important to the success of our fight. This means that on the one hand we should rise above the temptations of secretiveness and mutual suspicion; and on the other hand we must do everything in our power to sustain trust and confidence by safeguarding every piece of information that is being shared across national databases.
"We must also strive to work beyond the barriers imposed by the differences in our various legal systems, bearing in our minds that the criminals we are tackling have never allowed themselves to be held back by these obstacles. I trust that these issues and more will be exhaustively covered in your deliberations at this meeting," he stated.
The vice president noted that money laundering and terrorist financing are crimes significant ramifications for the security and wellbeing of the various countries in the sub-region.
The vice president also spoke of the dangers posed by anonymous corporate ownership, describing it as a global challenge requiring a truly global approach to tackle.
He commended the United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark for leading the way in establishing public registers of the real human owners of companies in their countries; urging other G8 and G20 countries to follow suit and initiate actions to end corporate secrecy in some of their dependencies.
"We cannot have anonymous ownership of companies, trusts and other arrangements designed to cover ownership of assets, and at the same time expect optimal results from anti-money laundering measures," Osinbajo added.
He commended the dedication of the GIABA Ministerial Committee which, according to him, serves as the conduit of political will and funding from the member-states as well as providing it with policy directions required to conduct its activities.