From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has said the commission will go after jewelry dealers and real estate developers who may be serving as conduits for money laundering.
According to him, the commission is working to strengthen its Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) in order to checkmate the activities of non-designated financial institutions.
He also revealed that the commission is set to prosecute 800 cases in various courts across the country with majority of them linked to internet fraudsters.
Bawa who was this week’s guest on the ministerial briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the presidential villa, Abuja on Thursday, said: ‘SCUML that is being managed by the EFCC as well as the ministry of trade and investment is expected to do similar thing but this time on the non-designated financial institutions. We are talking about the car dealers, the jewelry dealers and real estate, etc.
‘If we can checkmate the problems associated with real estate laundering of proceeds, crimes in this country will reduce.
‘It is on that thinking that we are working on strengthening on this special control unit against money laundering.
‘We are working with the two houses of the National Assembly to strengthen the legal framework of this special control unit against money laundering.’
He also clarified his statement concerning the involvement of a minister in the laundering of about $37 million into real estate, saying that it is the case of former minister of Petroleum, Diezani Madueke.
Bawa had on Tuesday in an interview with Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, disclosed that EFCC investigated a female minister, who bought $37.5million property from a bank and deposited $20 million cash.
He had also identified the real estate sector as a major conduit for money laundering.
Bawa observed 90 to 100 percent of stolen public funds are used for the procurement of houses and lands.
‘We investigated a matter in which a bank MD marketed a property to a minister and agreed to purchase it at $37.5 million.
‘The bank then sent a vehicle to her house to evacuate $20 million from her house in the first instance,’ he had said.
When asked why no minister had resigned or a bank manager being prosecuted over the matter, Bawa, who appeared on the presidential media briefing organised by the Presidential Media team, said he was only making reference to Diezani Alison-Madueke case.
When asked when the former minister would be prosecuted, he said she would be charged when she becomes available.
He said the EFCC’s intelligence unit has unearthed the movement of N6billion from an unnamed state government coffers, saying that this finding was possible because of the determination of the commission to restructure for more efficiency
He added: ‘Since I came on board, we have embarked on the restructuring of the agency, one of the key thing I succeeded in doing is the creation of the department of intelligence. This is based on our resolve to Nigerians that going forward, our investigation is going to be intelligence based.
‘Since the creation of the department, we have received meaningful intelligence. Just last week, they sent a report of certain government that has taken money out of the treasury of the state government in cash, over a period of time amounting to over N6billion which is a useful thing, that we are using to investigate that aspect.’
He disclosed that the unit is assisting the agency in prosecuting cases by forwarding findings to other departments, including the operations department.
On the recent recoveries made by the commission, he said it include
N6 billion, over $161 million, over £13,000, €1,730, 200 Canadian dollars, CFA 373,000, ¥8,430.
Bawa explained: ‘Let me use this opportunity to clarify issues. There are a number of recoveries that the EFCC has made over the years but is not all recoveries made that belongs to the Federal Government.
‘We have made recoveries for victims of criminals and they can be individuals, local government, state government, federal government, corporate entities whether in Nigeria or outside Nigeria. There are also recoveries that are indirect recoveries.
‘Just a couple of weeks back, we recovered $100 million for the Nigeria Ports Authority but the monies were paid into the account of NPA but through our efforts. Am I not going to record that we have recovered such an amount for NPA? Are you going to see it in the EFCC recovered account with the CBN? No.
‘There are recoveries that are made directly into the EFCC account. It is through systems and processes. There is Department of Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Management in EFCC responsible for collating all the data regarding recovered assets, assets on interest forfeiture and assets on final forfeiture as well as their location and of course their management.
‘From the time I took over, we have recovered over N6 billion, over $161 million, over £13,000, €1,730, 200 Canadian dollars, CFA 373,000, ¥8,430.
‘We have recovered 30 real estates, one carpet, 13 electronics, one farm land, one factory, two motorcycles, one filling station and about 32 automobiles.’
The EFCC boss affirmed that the commission would prosecute former governor of Abia state, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, all over again following his recent release from the correctional centre.
Speaking on his case and other pending ones, he stated: ‘We have prosecuted a number of people within this period, secured 185 convictions and you are aware that for two months the courts have been on strike, we have filed 367 cases and as I said within this week, we are going to file 800 cases in court on public corruption as well as cybercrime.
‘All the known politically exposed cases that you are aware of that are in court are still in court and we are vigorously and intelligently going to sustained their prosecution.
‘Yesterday (Wednesday), you have all reported it, we succeeded in securing the convictions of an ex-bank MD, Francis Atuche. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment on all 21 out of the 27 count charges. Of course, it is to run con-concurrently, it involves about N27 billion. We have been prosecuting that matter from the 16th of October 2009, judgement was only given yesterday.
‘We are determined to continue to prosecute no matter how long it takes and no matter the amount of resources that is involved. And that is why those of us in law enforcement say it time and time again, there is no budget in law enforcement because you never can tell where it will take you. It can take you up to the six continents and back and you have to prove your case beyond all reasonable doubts. So also in the case of prosecution, it can take one, two or several years.’
The EFCC boss also listed other ex-governors and high profile personalities still undergoing prosecution to include, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, former Katsina State Governor and three others standing trial for criminal breach of trust amounting to N11billion, Adebayo Alao-Akala, former Oyo State Governor for fraud, amounting to N11. 7billion, Ikedi Ohakim, former Imo State Governor, money laundering amounting to $2.2 million and Muazu Babangida Aliyu, former Niger State Governor for money laundering amounting to N4 billion.
Others still being prosecuted by EFCC include, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd) for money laundering amounting to N21. 4billion, Olajide Omokore, money laundering and procurement fraud amounting to $1.6 billion, Erastus Akingbola, former MD Intercontinental Bank N179billion and Andrew Yakubu, former GMD, NNPC money laundering to the tune of $9.7 million and Euro 74,000.
Also undergoing prosecution are Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia Ex-judge, attempt to pervert the course of justice, N5 million, Femi Thomas, former Executive Secretary, NHIS for money laundering amounting to $2.1 million and Babachir Lawal, former SGF for diversion of funds to the tune of N544 million.
‘The vision that is rapidly taking place in the EFCC today, is that of a world class, responsive and responsible law enforcement agency, with consideration of professionalism, integrity, transparency and accountability.’
On the rampant internet fraud in the country, he said the commission would file about 800 of such cases on court soon.
Bawa said: ‘The rising increase of internet fraud is a huge problem. From January to 10th of June 2021, we arrested 1,502 internet fraudsters across the country.
‘On Monday that the court resumed, we attempted to file close to about 800 cases of internet fraud. It is a serious problem and we are working tirelessly towards curtailing it.
‘We are working with states government that we have identified to be more vulnerable to this. It is something parents, elders, institutions should be talking to one another, it is tarnishing the image of this country. They are doing it on a daily basis, they see it as another way of getting another income which is worrisome to us.
‘The chunk of those doing this are young boys of between 25 and 34, in their active live. Coincidentally, I am one of them being a young man, people from my constituency are the ones doing this and we will continue to talk to them.
‘The commission is focused on these cyber criminals and will continue to carry out enlightenment, carry their fight to their enclave and collaborating with our partners particularly the media. We need your assistance here.
‘We are building a tactical center that will solely deal on this issue of cybercrime.
‘The new EFCC is harnessing the skills of well trained and motivated workforce, leveraging on the support of every stakeholder both at home and abroad to deliver on the vision of a Nigeria free of all forces of economic and financial crimes.
‘Nigeria is the only country we have, we are the ones to salvage it and of course we need the support of everyone home and abroad, please don’t cross the line.
‘Please, remember that if you are not one of us that wants to take Nigeria to it’s promise land, the EFCC will get you anywhere, anytime.’
Bawa, also said those of them in the commission see scandalous exits of his predecessors as ‘corruption fighting back.
This is even as he further disclosed that some persons had already started a move to tarnish his image, moving round and securing services of media outlets to execute the plot against him and make him suffer the fate of his predecessors.
He said he has informed the Inspector General of Police, Baba Alkali of the development but that such threats cannot deter him from riding the system of corruption.
The EFCC boss was responding to a question on if he was not concerned how his predecessors were removed from office.
According to Bawa, those who the EFCC have denied the enjoyment of an illegally acquired wealth, will naturally see them as enemies.
He added that such persons who had been stopped and made to relinquish illicitly acquired assets always go out to embarrass and the get their pound of flesh from the official deemed to have been their nemesis.