The attorney general of the federation has said that the anti corruption agencies will focus their beam light on commercial banks that aid and abet corrupt practices. Meanwhile the U.S has charged 80 Nigerians to a grand indictment for massive internet fraud.
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Punch Newspaper: EFCC, ICPC to beam searchlight on fraudulent banks —Malami
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Thursday, said the anti-corruption agencies would beam their searchlight on banks that had been aiding corrupt practices in the country. He said the Federal Government, through his ministry, would work closely with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission to ensure that banks involved in corrupt practices are sanctioned.
Speaking during his first full day in office in Abuja after his Wednesday’s re-appointment as the AGF, Malami also promised to pursue judicial reforms, including proposing an amendment to the Constitution, that would provide an innovative way to tackle congestion of cases at the Supreme Court.
On financial institutions’ involvement in corruption, he said, “As bad news to the rogues within our financial system, in the next four years, the Federal Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with anti-corruption agencies, will beam searchlight on the financial institutions and non-designated financial institutions in order to make them pay dearly for the dastardly roles they played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening corruption in Nigeria. “From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case to Diezani case and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal Government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission from 2015 till date.”
Malami also said the Federal Government would bring to book former and current government officials who caused the August 19, 2019 award of $9bn by a British court against Nigeria. He said the anti-corruption agencies, under his watch, would be beaming searchlight on banks, and other financial institutions, and non-designated financial institutions, which he said “are involved in most of the major corruption cases.”
A United Kingdom court presided over by Justice Butcher had on August 16, 2019, awarded $9bn in favour a foreign firm, Process and Industrial Developments Limited. The court did this by granting an enforcement application which converted the arbitration award secured by the Process and Industrial Development Limited into a domestic UK judgment against Nigeria.
The Federal Government had insisted that the money was awarded in favour of the Process and Industrial Development Limited despite that the 20 years old project of accelerated gas development, in Nigeria’s OMLs 67 and 123, for which it was meant for was never executed. It said it would take steps to stop the enforcement of the judgment.
On Thursday, Malami described the award by the UK court as sad, and dubbed it as part of the “consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administrations.” He said, “Sadly, in spite of the spirited and concerted efforts of the current administration to combat corrupt practices and rent seeking in all its forms, Nigerians woke up on Friday, August 16, 2019 to the rudest consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administration that has resulted in the award of $9bn against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by a British court which ruled that Process and Industrial Development Limited had the right to seize $9bn in Nigerian assets.”
He noted that the dispute that led to the “arbitration between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Process and Industrial Development Limited which consequently resulted in the said court ruling arose from a 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement purportedly entered with Process and Industrial Development Limited by the past administration in 2010 which contract P&ID by the past administration in 2010 which contracted P&ID never performed as agreed.” He said steps would be taken to bring everyone involved to book.
The minister said, “That being said, it must be placed on record that the Federal Government strongly views with serious concerns the underhand manners by which the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration in connivance with their local and international conspirators all in a bid to inflict grave economic adversity on the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria. “As a government that has the mandate of the people, and their interests at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials — home or abroad and past or present — that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement.”
He also promised to pursue, during his second term, “judicial reforms”, targeted at including, contribution of the ministry to “improving security, fighting corruption and fixing the economy for the greater benefit of all Nigerians.” He promised to ensure the collaboration with the judiciary and the legislature with a view to “designing and proposing a workable constitutional amendment towards ensuring better efficiency of the Nigerian judiciary.
Malami said, “This will certainly involve a reconsideration of the subject-matter/cause of action jurisdiction of our courts in which such an innovative manner that will limit the nature of disputes and appeals that get to the Supreme Court which is currently battling with backlog of cases.” The minister, however, said the reform he would seek would be “mindful of not recklessly disrupting the existing structure, but as systematic, pragmatic, cost-efficient and objective as much as practicable.”
The minister also said he would ensure a harmonious working relationship among all the nation’s anti-corruption and law enforcements’ agencies, by holding quarterly meetings with them. Thursday’s event was attended by members of staff and top officials of the Federal Ministry of Justice, as well as heads of the various agencies and parastatals under the supervision of the ministry. They rendered goodwill messages at the event, which also saw the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Dayo Apata, who took over the affairs of the ministry on May 28, 2019, present a handover note to Malami.
Sun Newspaper: Nigerians arrested for massive money laundry, fraud in US
The United States of America (U.S) Court yesterday charged 80 defendants, most of whom Nigerians for alleged participation in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes.
They were accused of planning to launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network. The indictment followed yesterday’s arrest of 14 defendants by law enforcement authorities . The arrests were carried out across the United States, with 11 of them taking place in the Los Angeles region.
Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and were said to have been arrested earlier this week. The remaining defendants are believed to be abroad, with most them located in Nigeria.
It was alleged that the 80 defendants and others used various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly – to defraud victims out of millions of dollars.
According to a criminal complaint , co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries contacted the lead defendants in the indictment . Those indicted include Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerians . They were alleged to have been operating a bank and money-service accounts that could receive funds fraudulently obtained from victims. According to the charge sheet “Once members of the conspiracy convinced victims to send money under false pretenses, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the receipt of funds and oversaw an extensive money-laundering network, according to the 145-page indictment.”
The indictment and criminal complaint allege that Iro and Igbokwe, who were among those arrested yesterday , were involved in schemes resulting in the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million in fraudulently-obtained funds – and the overall conspiracy was responsible for the attempted theft of at least an additional $40 million.
The fraudsters were accused of targeting victims in the United States and across the globe, including individuals, small and large businesses, and law firms. Some of the victims of the conspiracy lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fraud schemes, and many were elderly.
The report said “This case is part of our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from fraudulent online schemes and to bring to justice those who prey upon American citizens and businesses,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use BEC schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims. This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators – no matter where they reside – and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.” “Today’s announcement highlights the extensive efforts that organized criminal groups will engage in to perpetrate BEC schemes that target American citizens and their hard-earned assets,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims. The FBI is committed to working with our partner agencies worldwide to continue to identify these cyber criminals and to dismantle their networks.”
Iro and Igbokwe were alleged to be brokers of fraudulent bank accounts. According to the indictment, Iro and Igbokwe collected bank accounts, fielded requests for bank account information, provided that information to co-conspirators around the world, and laundered the money obtained from victims – all of this in exchange for a cut of the money stolen from victims of the various fraud schemes.
Guardian Newspaper: Government moves to recover N614b loan from states
The Federal Government has apparently begun moves to recover the N614 billion budget support loan it gave to 35 states of the federation.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed gave the indication yesterday while briefing State House correspondents following the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja. She said the council resolved to set up a committee made up of members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) who would partner with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance to draw modalities for repayment. “The Minister of Finance briefed NEC on the progress of the facility, detailing how the Federal Government has made a total of over N614billion available to 35 states being N17.5billion each,” she said.Ahmed further disclosed that the balance in the stabilisation account and natural resources development fund as at August 20, 2019, was $95.329million.
The Federal Government had released a total of N1.64trillion to states and local governments between 2015 and 2017 as part of measures to stabilise the polity.This came as the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) revealed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit about N77.92billion to the federation account in 2017. A report on that year’s sale of crude oil and gas released in Abuja yesterday showed that although the total crude oil production was 692 million barrels, only 240.9 million barrels (representing 35 per cent of the total production) was for the federation.
The report, a pilot study that focuses exclusively and extensively on the sale of Nigeria’s share of crude oil and gas, shows that total revenue from the sale of the federation’s share for that year totalled $14.5billion (crude oil) and $1.32billion (gas). “The sum of N77.92billion was under-remitted by NNPC to the federation account from domestic crude allocation in 2017. NNPC acknowledges the under-remittance and states that there is an ongoing reconciliation to net off the N77.92billion,” a section of the 136-page report notes.
According to the report, NNPC deducted N297billion from earnings from the domestic crude allocation as costs and losses, including N141.6billion for under-recovery on petroleum products; N25billion for crude and product losses; and N130.4billion for pipeline repairs and maintenance. It indicates that the federation’s crude went to 29 destinations in 2017, the top five being: India, 41.3 million barrels; USA, 30.6 million; local refineries, 26.5 million barrels; Netherlands, 22.9 million barrels; and Spain, 21 million barrels.
NEITI’s Executive Secretary Waziri Adio said the report was undertaken in furtherance of the recent decision of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to add commodity-trading transparency to its scope of coverage through stand-alone and in-depth reports.He disclosed that the objective of the report is to ensure adequate returns to governments, increase competition and efficiency in commodity trading, and ensure greater public scrutiny of resultant revenues. “Resource-rich countries receive shares of minerals produced in their territories as equity shares or as in-kind payments, and these minerals are usually sold directly or indirectly to commodity traders through state-owned enterprises. However, the process and details of these sales are mostly shrouded in secrecy, even when more than half of the revenues from the extractive sector come from these sales. This is why the EITI resolved to beam more light on commodity trading. Nigeria is one of the five EITI-implementing countries selected to pilot this enhanced focus,” Adio said.
Meanwhile, the newly reappointed Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami yesterday vowed that the Federal Government will deal decisively with persons involved in the award of the contract that led to a $9billion fine awarded against the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a British Court.
Justice Butcher had on August 16 ruled that an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&lD), had the right to seize 20 per cent assets of Nigeria’s foreign reserves worth £7.4 billion or $9 billion.While addressing staff of the Ministry of Justice, Malami described the judgment as the “consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administration.” He said: “It may interest you to know that the dispute that led to the arbitration between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and P&ID, which consequently resulted in the said court ruling, arose from a 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) purportedly entered with P&ID by the past administration in 2010, which contract P&ID never performed as agreed. “That being said, it must be placed on record that the Federal Government strongly views with serious concerns the underhand manner by which the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration in connivance with their local and international conspirators all in a bid to inflict grave economic adversity on the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria.”
He said: “As a government that has the mandate of the people and their interests at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished. All efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials home or abroad and past or present that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement.”
Malami further disclosed that plans are underway for activation of the provisions of Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (As Amended) against private individuals and corporate entities culpable of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, hiding, removing from the shore of Nigeria, acquiring, using, retaining or taking possession or control of any fund or property they knowingly or reasonably ought to have known to have formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act. He said: “As bad news to the rogues within our financial system, in the next four years, the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with anti-corruption agencies shall be beaming anti-corruption searchlight on the financial institutions (F1s) and Non Designated Financial Institutions (DNFIs).”
According to him, this is targeted at “making them pay dearly for the dastardly role they have played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening corruption in Nigeria. From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case, to Diezani’s case, and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal Government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) from 2015 till date.”Malami added: “Where necessary, the ministry shall initiate necessary executive orders to close apparent gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives currently in place in Nigeria.”