The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has debunked claims that the omission of the word “fraud’’ in Nigeria’s 2011 Anti-money Laundering Act was deliberate.
The commission’s secretary Emmanuel Akomaye, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja that the declaration by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that the omission was probably deliberate was not true.
The FATF is a Paris-based global association of 186 countries demanding transparency before dealing in financial transactions between themselves and with other countries of the world.
It is meeting on Oct. 15 in France to determine whether Nigeria should be one of the countries to be delisted from the group, a development which could bar Nigeria from financial transactions with other countries if it did not fine-tune its antimony laundering and anti-terrorism laws.
The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorism financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Akomaye told NAN that the word “fraud’’ was contained in the draft bill that was passed by the National Assembly, but that its omission in the final bill must have been an error during printing.
He also debunked allegations of possible and deliberate narrow definition of the word “fund’’ in the countries funding of terrorism and criminalising of terrorism law.
“Truly, EFCC was part of the process that led to the enactment of the 2011 Anti-money Laundering and the Prevention of Terrorism Act; I would rather say that it was the Printer’s Devil that the word fraud was omitted.
“Because in the draft bill, fraud was there.
“In Section 15 of the money laundering Act which is the subject issue in this amendment, there are 20 offences which the FATF regard as predicate offences to money laundering and fraud is one of them.
“So for your law to meet standards set by the FATF, all the 20 offences must be included in your predicate offences for money laundering, unfortunately fraud was omitted.
“Not only fraud, there was also the omission of sexual exploitation of children. I wouldn’t say it was deliberate. The National Assembly meant well.
“If the National Assembly included corruption which is one of our biggest challenges, I don’t think that deliberately the word “fraud” would have been omitted, so it was, like I said, probably a Printer’s Devil.
Akomaye told NAN that although sexual exploitation might not be a serious offence in Nigeria, it was a serious one in other parts of the world were syndicates took advantage of children as sex workers to make money.
He said that money made by such criminal means was also considered as dirty money by the FATF and should be included in the list of offences as such monies were usually laundered to make them look clean.
He said that South Africa was the only African country that had been fully registered as a member of the FATF as Nigeria still needed to fine-tune its laws to continue to engage in financial transactions with other members of the FATF.
“You cannot be a member when you are deficient in some of the things that they are asking you to do; you have to clear yourself of all those issues before you can be so considered.
“Given our size, one of the considerations for admission to both the FATF and your listing as a potential anti-money laundering risk is the size of the economy.
“Once your economy has a GDP of over five billion dollars, you are eligible to be scrutinised whether your financial systems has vulnerabilities that could expose both residents and those who intend to do business with such a country to any potential risk.
“It’s not as if we are not eligible but we have to do the first things first by cleaning some of the things that they are now advising that we should do in order to be in good stead amongst other countries.
Nigeria got a clean bill on money laundering issues in June 2006 when the FATF expunged her name from the list of those countries with high rate of money laundering image.
The FATF then noted that Nigeria's fight against financial crimes through the EFCC was working and commended the leaders and Nigerians for the efforts made to combat financial crimes. (NAN)