An associate fellow of the London-based Chatham House, Matthew Page, on Tuesday, said that over 800 property worth over $400 million have been linked to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) in Nigeria.
Speaking at a capacity building programme, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Page advised anti-corruption agencies to focus on the real estate and education sectors, when tracking illicit financial flows and money laundering.
Page said it was necessary to focus on the sectors as they provide opportunities for PEPs in Nigeria to launder money, noting that most properties in London and Dubai that are owned by Nigerian politicians are held by proxies, family and shell companies.
It would be recalled that an American foundation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had in a report exposed how Nigerian elites use the British educational system to launder money in the guise of seeking better schooling opportunities for their wards.
Earlier in his remarks, the ICPC Chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, said the event was positioned to help investigators to track illicit financial flows, money laundering and other areas the government was losing revenue, and recover such funds.
Owasanoye explained that the loss of revenue was a major challenge faced by developing countries, particularly Nigeria, noting that the meeting was designed to build the capacity of investigators to enable them trace areas that the government was losing money.
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 boost the country’s economy.
Meanwhile, he said the commission had dragged about 2,000 corporate entities into the country’s tax net, following investigations it conducted, while the names of the entities had since been forwarded to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for profiling.
“We are already working with the FIRS and getting a lot of tax evaders and defaulters into the nation’s tax net. 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,” Owasanoye said.
On his part, the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on stopping IFFs from Nigeria, Adeyemi Dipeolu, said the committee was working tirelessly to curb the menace of IFFs in 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 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 to tackle illicit financial flows from Nigeria amongst others,” he said.
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