The Nation newspaper has an interesting report on efforts by the federal government of Nigeria to repatriate billions of dollars allegedly stolen and taken away to the United Arab Emirates by former public office holders. The process which is a direct fallout from the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the UAE where an agreement was signed on mutual legal assistance.
According to the report, up to $200billion which was stashed away by some former governors, ex-ministers and other public officers will be repatriated. Properties belonging to these former public office holders and their cronies will also be seized.
Here’s how the paper reported the story:
Under the searchlight for stashing away cash or acquiring properties in the UAE are seven former governors, six former ministers, a fleeing presidential aide implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals, ex-military chiefs under probe, agents / fronts of some of these public officers and five chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
A Federal Government team, comprising the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu and crack detectives from the anti-graft agency, yesterday started comparing collated intelligence notes on the PEPs with their UAE counterparts.
The EFCC officials arrived in Dubai on Saturday. The Minister left Abuja yesterday to join the team.
It was learnt that the AGF had barely returned from an official assignment when an urgent travel arrangement was made for him.
The delegation went to UAE in line with an agreement with the Federal Government.
President Muhammadu Buhari in January signed a “Judicial Agreement on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters, which includes the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth”.
Seven former governors, six former ministers and a fleeing Presidential aide implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals, ex-military chiefs under probe, agents / fronts of some of these public officers and about five chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) have either stashed away funds in Dubai or acquired properties.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The Federal Government team has met with those from the UAE on intelligence sharing, the list of those on EFCC radar, the number of highly-placed Nigerians with fat accounts in UAE and those with choice properties in Marina (Dubai), Bur Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
”Some of the former governors include one from the South-South, two from Northcentral, two from the Northeast, one from the Northwest, and one from the Southwest.
“A former-governor had made botched attempts to transfer about $517million loot to Dominican Republic because UAE law is now strict.
“More than six ex-ministers and a former presidential aide, who is on the run over the $2.1billion arms deals, were said to have acquired choice mansions and malls in UAE. One of the former ministers, who was alleged to own two houses in Dubai, was said to have served as a front for a former First Lady.
“Another ex-minister had bought some malls through a few cronies in Dubai. The list of such agents is being screened.
“Certainly, the anti-graft agency has tightened the noose on these former public officers and there is no hiding place for them.
“The success of the collaboration between the Federal Government team and the UAE Government will determine when EFCC will release the concessions on some of these PEPs. Very soon, we will unveil these ex-political office holders.”
According to sources, the government delegation discovered that many highly-placed Nigerians, including a few ex-governors and money laundering fronts, have fled from Dubai to Singapore, Casablanca in Morocco, Dominican Republic and some islands in the UK and in the Caribbean.
Another source said: “From the trip so far, many big Nigerians have already ran away from Dubai to escape being arrested by the UAE authorities.”
“Some of the ex-governors have also avoided visiting UAE until the coast is clear. They do not want to experience the same fate like ex-Governor James Ibori.
“The frequency at which highly-placed Nigerians fly to Dubai for parties has considerably reduced because they are under watch by the UAE authorities.
A source in the government last night said: “Yes, the AGF and the EFCC chairman with some top officials of the anti-graft agency are in Dubai for a follow-up technical session on the Mutual Legal Assistance between Nigeria and the UAE.
“I can confirm the official trip and it is meant to recover looted funds.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, said over $200 billion had been hidden in UAE.
He said: “Over $200 billion is stashed away from Nigeria in Dubai alone. This may be monies stolen in the past 20 years. I am not talking about estates and bonds and other securities bought with Nigeria stolen money.”
The anti-money laundering policy of UAE Central Bank reads in part: “Any person who commits, or attempts to commit, a Money Laundering offence shall be punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years and or a fine of between AED 100,000 and AED 500,000.
”In cases of multiple perpetrators, the Court, subject to its discretion, may exempt a perpetrator from the imprisonment penalty if he takes the initiative and reports the crime to the competent authorities prior to the knowledge of such authorities and if his actions lead to the arrest of the other perpetrators or seizure of the laundered money.
”Any establishment that commits an offence of money laundering, financing of terrorism or financing of any unlawful organisations, shall be punished by a fine of AED 300,000 and AED 1,000,000.
”Failure to report a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment and /or a fine of between AED 50,000 and AED 300,000.
”Tipping off a person being investigated regarding a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/ or a fine of between AED10,000 and AED 100,000.
”Violation of the requirements of Airport Declarations shall be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine.”