By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA, said, yesterday, it was worried that organised criminal groups and terrorist organisations have evolved sophisticated methods of channelling illegally acquired funds/property into the formal economy of countries, including Nigeria.
GIABA, which is a specialised institution of Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering, AML, and Counter Financing of Terrorism, CFT, strategies in West Africa, said the illegal groups evade detection by operating across international borders.
In a speech presented at the opening session of a Pre-Assessment Training Workshop for Nigeria, Director-General of GIABA, Mr. Kimelabalou Aba, who was represented by Director of Programmes and Projects, Dr. Bruno Nduka, said there was urgent need to address “new threats” he said had weakened international regime of criminal justice administration with the ECOWAS region.
The workshop was co-organised by Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.
According to the GIABA boss, members of organised criminal groups and terrorist organisations, “also avoid being caught by taking advantage of those borders and playing on the frequent reluctance of law enforcement authorities to engage in complicated and expensive transnational investigations and prosecutions.
“The weak capacity of any one state to effectively address some of these new threats translates itself into an overall weakness in the international regime of criminal justice administration.
“Against this backdrop, combating these two scourges as well as associated criminal activities is proving to be a challenge to the international community. For states with a relatively weak criminal justice capacity, these challenges can sometimes appear insurmountable.
“Thus, international initiatives require countries and jurisdictions to adopt and effectively implement anti-money laundering and combat the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures of acceptable international standards to protect their economies from being abused for those purposes.”
“An effective AML/CFT system requires an adequate legal and institutional framework, which should include: laws that create money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (FT) offences and provide for the freezing, seizing and confiscation of the proceeds of crime and terrorist funding; laws, regulations or in certain circumstances other enforceable means that impose the required obligations on financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions.
“An appropriate institutional or administrative framework, and laws that provide competent authorities with the necessary duties, powers and sanctions and laws and other measures that give a country or jurisdiction the ability to provide the widest range of international co-operation.
“It also involves the respect of principles such as transparency and good governance”.
In his welcome remarks, the Director of NFIU, Mr. Francis Usani, thanked GIABA for considering Nigeria for the workshop, saying it would help in ensuring that risks of money laundering and terrorists financing in all sectors of the economy were mitigated.
He said: “It is not in doubt that Nigeria has made remarkable progress in addressing the deficiencies identified in its AML/CFT systems during the first round of assessments and currently, we pride yourselves to have one of the best AML/CFT regimes in the sub region.
“However, what matters most at this point is our ability to eloquently present what we have before the assessors and the outside world.”
He also disclosed that Nigeria had been re-admitted into the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligent Units after its suspension was lifted last Wednesday.
“At the next Financial Action Task Force, FATF plenary coming up in about two weeks from now, we shall apply to FATF to recommence the process of our membership which was kept on hold as a result of the suspension,” the NFIU boss added.