JOINT COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF 4-DAY TRAINING CONFERENCE ON TracKING NOXIOUS FUNDS: Strategies and Techniques for whistle-blowing & Tracing Property Purchased AND INVESTMENTS from Proceeds of Bribery and Corruption TRANSFERRED TO THE WEST AND TAX HAVENS ORGANISED BY UNIVERSITY OF KENT AND THE MacARTHUR FOUNDATION WITH THE CORNER HOUSE; GLOBAL WITNESS AND HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA AT SHOREGATE HOTEL LAGOS ON 20TH AND 21ST NOVEMBER 2017 AND ROCKVIEW ROYALE HOTEL ABUJA ON 23RDAND 24TH NOVEMBER 2017.
Perturbed by the phenomenal underdevelopment implications of stolen capital flight from developing countries to safe havens in developed states and the laundering of resources through bribery and corruption in the conduct of international businesses, the organisers have convened a four-day specialized training session targeted at Communities of West Africa, anti-corruption activists, compliance officers, anti-corruption agencies, registrars, senior state counsel, senior civil servants, judicial officers, accountants, journalists, estate managers, diplomats and legal advisers. Also in attendance were representatives of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), representatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related offences Commission (ICPC) and representatives from the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
The sessions offered practical, doctrinal and procedural introduction to researching the law and practice of the Whistle Blower Policy in Nigeria and the tracking of noxious funds from developing states to the developed world.
The conference exposed participants to: the current innovative Nigerian whistle-blowing programme which compensates whistle-blowers; strategies for Africans in Diaspora to safeguard their countries fortunes through tracing where national loots are stored; researching of tax fiddles, scams and shell companies; tracing of assets of politically exposed persons and statesmen; knowledge of means by which politically exposed persons disguise their wealth and use tax havens as well as financial hubs for storing stolen wealth; understanding of issues surrounding the use of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Land registries of the States, the Freedom of Information Act; engaging with the UK Companies House in conducting searches; how to work with Company Registrars in other countries; use of company annual reports and prospectuses; examining the procedural rules that apply to researching companies and corporate networks; examining e-resources to trace proceeds of corruption and financial crimes; and interaction with world-renowned experts who have worked on some of the most high-profile corruption investigations in Nigeria, United States of America, Europe and the UK.
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Participants and resource persons after reviewing, analysing and dissecting the theme and sub-themes on; flight of capital into foreign property market: scale of the Nigerian problem; law and practice of the whistle blower policy of Nigeria, scope of participation of Diaspora communities; the A-Z of international company search; breaking corruption scandals in Nigeria from home and abroad; researching London properties; research and tracing sham/shell company investments; tracing noxious illicit financial flows: updates on the law and practice of asset recovery from Europe to Nigeria and reviewing strategies on protection of the common wealth; committing Nigerians to whistle blowing and detection of grand corruption proceeds, observed as follows:
1. The stolen wealth of developing states and proceeds of bribery and corruption in their participation in international businesses have found safe haven in the Western hemisphere.
2. Every year, billions of money stolen from some of the most impoverished countries in the world by corrupt politicians, public officials and business people enters the UK and other western countries unreported.
3. Over £4.2 billion worth of properties in and around London have been identified as bought and owned by politicians and public officials with suspicious wealth from around the world.
4. Recent study shows that those buying apartments in 14 landmark London developments are overseas investors and 40 per cent of the investors are often Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) that have come from countries with a high corruption risk (Nigeria)
5. Laws and enforcement mechanisms in Nigeria are weak in identifying, tracing, investigating and confiscating proceeds of crimes which has led to the increase in the rate of corruption
6. Laws, mechanisms and platforms available for tracing, tracking, confiscating and repatriating stolen assets and funds in the UK and the whistle-blower policy of the Nigerian Government are underutilised by Nigerians and Africans in Diaspora to discourage illicit financial flow and money laundering from developing countries.
7. The practice of foreign financial institutions and governments making outrageous demands as conditionalities before returning looted funds to Nigeria is condemnable and should be challenged by all victim states.
8. Failure of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to expose obscene display of wealth and opulent lifestyles by Politically Exposed Persons emboldens treasury looters in their criminal acts.
9. Law enforcement and judicial institutions in high corruption risk countries like Nigeria are deliberately weakened and compromised by politicians and their international business collaborators to escape justice and provide legitimacy for their proceeds of crime.
10. In violation of the UNCAC provisions on Stolen Asset Recovery, recipient countries of stolen assets tend to deploy all possible technical and legal obstacles to prevent expeditious repatriation of tracked and confiscated loots to countries of origin.
11. Nigerians in Diaspora and at home are not taking full advantage of the new whistleblower policy of the Nigerian Government to expose the avalanche of looted resources in the UK, US and other Western Capitals; deter further illicit flow of proceeds of corruption to the country; get rewarded for their involvement in repatriation of stolen wealth.
12. Nigerians are not putting enough efforts into conducting company and land registry searches and the use of Freedom of Information laws in Nigeria
13. Identifying corrupt practices and the protection of the whistle blowers under the Criminal Justice System
14. Stolen assets do not only find their way into safe havens of the West but also countries like India, China and others are recipients of stolen wealth
15. Constitutionally, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is the lead anti-corruption agency set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It has the primary responsibility of checking corrupt practices in the Nigerian Public service and has been doing so since 1989. Part of its duty is to ensure compliance with the code of conduct and where appropriate enforce the code of conduct of officers and any other law relating there to.
16. There is currently no higher institution in Nigeria offering Criminal Justice as a degree programme
17. Proceeds of corrupt practices are being diverted into digital currencies with no way of tracing them
18. There’s a mandatory requirement for CAC documents to be made available to the publIc
Participants therefore recommend as follows:
1. The Nigerian Populace should be brought up to speed with the essential terminology, concepts and principles that define these specialist areas of money laundering, illicit financial flow, safe haven for stolen assets and shell/sham companies.
2. Stakeholders to design and organise yearly, refresher courses, trainings and conferences to ensure comprehension of the many technical terms of law, strategy and other intricacies of tracing illegally owned properties abroad.
3. Government and non-government actors to convene fora to identify and examine the phenomenon of illicit financial flows and highlight the main treaties, principles, soft laws as well as the legal, political, diplomatic and procedural steps by which corrupt assets can be traced, frozen, seized, forfeited and returned.
4. State and Non-State Actors must engage the available legal mechanisms to recognize, prevent, recover and return all forms of Illicit Financial Flows from High Corruption Risk Countries.
5. Inter-governmental framework developed around the conditions of return of stolen funds must take account of the integrity of requesting states.
6. Returnable assets should include punitive fines, compensation and disgorged profits earned from settlements; other illicit outflows such as diverted tax, shifted profits, and illicit gains linked to operations of multinational corporations
7. Diasporans should help victim countries map scope of looted funds and come up with information on: where assets are located; which assets are worth following; recovery mechanism; and professionals to use.
8. Nigerian citizens and Diasporans should build the momentum to bring the government and law enforcement systems in conformity with their duties to account for, trace, track and confiscate stolen assets within the system.
9. Several measures could be used to augment online searches such as physical investigations and intense analysis of information in the public domain on social media.
10. A network of volunteer investigators and researchers is to be formed from the ranks of attendees of this conference to make connection with other research groups and Africans in the Diaspora in order to engage in further specialist anti-corruption activities including monthly online joint illicit investment training sessions.
11. Recovered funds should be put to proper use pending the determination of cases.
12. Whistle blowers should be encouraged as they exercise their freedom of expression through adequate rewards.
13. Journalists to use more effective investigative tools.
14. Judiciary should be strong and uphold the Freedom of Information Act.
15. Every citizen must be a watch dog and must pressurise the government to deliver
16. Create a platform where participants from these sessions can engage themselves.
17. Civil society to increase its pressure on foreign governments and international financial institutions to clean up their act and act in accordance with the demands of international laws
18. Civil society to increase its pressure on European Union Governments, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland to deliver on their promises to combat the malaise of corruption by refusing their financial systems from being exploited by a Kleptomaniac political and business ruling class.
19. That the attendees will facilitate the formation of a Nigerian citizens for ‘Asset Recovery Action Group’ to carry on the good work identified by this conference and this Group is to be dedicated towards independent studies, research and knowledge sharing activities on how to trace Nigerians stolen wealth and ask for their return.
20. The ignoble role of other actors like professionals including, accountants, auditors and lawyers in collaborating and facilitating illicit transfer of funds abroad and must be investigated and condemned.
21. Animal Husbandry and particularly cattle rearing is emerging as a major means of laundering vast sums of stolen capital and its use in disguising the proceeds of illicit financial flows is capable of destabilising peace and security. Hence, pressure needs to be put on exposing illicit financial flows through cattle rearing by ensuring that legitimate owners of cattle are identified
22. Anti Money Laundering laws regarding the regulation of farming and animal husbandry must be updated to cover all types of farming activities whether or not they are mechanised. The essence is to fill the lacuna in the law which provides for the regulation of only ‘mechanised’ farming and therefore allowing the possibility of money laundering through cattle rearing.
23. The government should appropriately capture the scope and activities of the CCB as well as strengthen them by giving them a voice to effectively carry out their mandate.
Dr. Gbenga Oduntan Nick Hildyard Simon Taylor ‘Lanre Suraju
University of Kent CornerHouse GlobalWitness HEDA