Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyema Tuesday said illicit financial flows from Africa cannot be stopped without global outrage against it.
According to them, it will require international collaboration to block safe havens for looted funds and make asset recovery easier.
Osinbajo believes there was the need to scale up the political will stop illicit financial flows at the domestic, continental and international levels.
For Onyeama, countries that refuse to return stolen assets to their legitimate owners are as guilty as those who stole them.
They spoke in Abuja at the second “International Conference on Combating Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) and Enhancing Asset Recovery (AR) for Sustainable Development (Second Abuja IFF/AR)”.
It was organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in collaboration with the African Union (AU), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
According to Osinbajo, who was represented by Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters Dr Yemi Dipeolu, it will require global outrage to stem illicit financial flows.
He said: “I repeat the call I made last year that illicit financial flows should attract the same level of global outrage that the world has for drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorist financing.
We must recognise that progress in the fight against illicit financial flows requires that we focus on tackling cross border flows of corrupt and criminal activities as well as the ways and means by which they are facilitated. This will require collaboration and exchange of information amongst countries.
Osinbajo said the recovery of $321million stolen from Nigeria and hidden in Switzerland was a good example of how political will and international cooperation can lead to asset recovery.Ultimately, our effort to stem illicit financial flows will depend on our domestic capacity to prevent and repatriate IFFs and to bring about desired development outcomes.
African countries will need to find the resources to establish the relevant architecture for tackling illicit financial flows, including by establishing and/or strengthening revenue authorities, transfer pricing units, customs services, anti-corruption agencies, financial intelligence units, and the like.
The task also requires accurate data and up-to-date information as well as effective regulatory, legislative and institutional frameworks.It also means acquiring and training personnel who understand the complexities of illicit financial flows and who can carry out the required oversight of functions that are needed to stem illicit financial flows.
Above all, we must remain committed to using the resources acquired from blocking illicit financial flows or data recovered therefrom for promoting development and advancing the interest and welfare of our people, including by achieving the sustainable development goals,” Osinbajo said.
The Vice President reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to tackling illicit financial flows that happen through tax evasion, money laundering, smuggling and other acts of corruption.We’re fully conscious that this requires transparency, financial probity and the upholding of due process in public procurement, amongst other things.
We reaffirm our commitment to taking the necessary measures in this regard, including by working in cooperation and collaboration with regional bodies like the African Union, and international partners as well,” Osinbajo said.
Onyeama said political leaders must be held to account for the persistence of illicit financial flows despite all talks about tackling itHe described as mind-boggling the difficulties faced in the restitution and recovery of assets from foreign countries to developing countries.
He said while powerful countries like the United States, Germany and France were able to force Switzerland to review its banking secrecy provisions and help identify their citizens who were transferring money there, developing countries lack such clout.
For developing countries as ourselves, it’s so much more difficult – the kind of hurdles that we have to overcome.
Large sums of money have been found in Jersey, for instance, and other countries are laying claim to it, because in getting to Jersey, it passed through different jurisdictions. We haven’t been able to get the money back.We got some money back from Switzerland, but my God! When you look at the details, I was shocked and extremely angry at the process of recovery. Percentages were paid out to all kinds of institutions.
To me, this is daylight robbery that these countries are perpetrating, and of course playing on the fact that we’re not the United States.So, it’s something we keep harping on, that these countries have to do a lot more, because at the end of the day, they are condoning huge theft and are accessories after the fact in fact.
If you’re making it difficult for legitimate owners to recover those assets, and then you allow your institutions and others take huge chunks from that asset for your own benefit, then you’re just as guilty of theft as those that transferred the money in the first place. This is totally unacceptable and totally immoral,” Onyeama said
PACAC member Prof Femi Odekunle, who represented the chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), said there was the need to tackle weak and compromised regulatory structures, poor governance structures and reckless tax incentives that encourage illicit financial flows.
He said the government must not compromise on its regulatory standards even while seeking foreign investments, because, according to him, “you cannot worship a cow because you want to eat meat.
One ultimate goal of combating illicit financial flows is to help countries mobilise domestic resources to finance their development goals. We cannot hope to achieve sustainable development goals without addressing the problem of illicit financial flows,” Odekunle said.
Source: The Nation Newspaper