Combating IFF: Participants call on Ministries to put strategies in place to remove secrecy in banking sector

Professor Itse Sagay, SAN Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) And Other Panelists.

ABUJA (Justice Ministry’ Report) – Participants rose from a 3- day Conference on Promoting International Cooperation to Combat illicit Financial Flows (IFF) and Enhance Asset Recovery (AR) to foster sustainable Development, and called on the Ministries of Justice to work with the compliance sections, financial institutions and relevant organs of Government to establish beneficial ownership register, and remove the secrecy around the banking transactions and records.

The recommendation is coming up even as Participants underscored that global standards in anti-corruption and anti-money laundering require financial institutions to subject accounts held by certain persons to greater scrutiny and monitoring, including senior government officials, leaders of political parties, executives at state-owned enterprises and others with access to large amount of state asset5s and the power to direct them.

They also urged countries to remove barriers to asset recovery, including by simplifying their legal procedures and preventing abuse of those procedures, and also encourage the State to limit, where appropriate, domestic legal immunities, in accordance with their legal system and constitutional principles.

These are part of the numerous recommendations by Participants at the Conference held at the State  House Banquet Hall, Abuja, aimed at proffering tools and strategies to effectively tackle illicit financial flows and strengthening of asset recovery and asset return.

The 3-day Conference tagged ‘Abuja IFF/AR’ which ended today June 7, 2017, was organized by the Government of Nigeria in partnership with some development partners including the Government of the Kingdom of Norway. The Conference focused on the policy measures, tools and strategies to effectively tackle illicit financial flows and strengthen asset recovery, with emphasis on propelling the implementation of the recommendations of the African Union/UN Economic Commission for Africa High level Panel on IFF to foster the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, declared the Conference open and underscored the need for the global community to support the efforts of developing countries at recovering stolen funds and assets.

The Conference considered key thematic areas of IFF namely; a) Combating Cross Border Flow Corrupt and Criminal Assets; b) understanding Illicit flows in Commercial Transactions; c) Holding IFF Facilitators and Intermediaries Accountable; d) Enhancing Asset Recovery and Asset Return; e) Management and Application of Returned Asset for SDGs and Human Rights as well as f) Framework for International Cooperation and Financing for Development.

In recognizing the challenge that Illicit Financial Flows and Asset Recovery have increased in scope and complexity, the Conference underlined the need to harness the full potential of the existing institutional and policy frameworks as transformative instruments for economic growth and poverty reduction. The steady increase in funds of illicit origin flowing from developing countries to developed countries in particular and between developing countries (South – South) was highlighted with concern raised on the increasing danger it poses to the sustainable development, the rule of law, and security of nations.

In considering the thematic areas of the Conference, Participants also recommended the following; a) called on countries to combat and penalize corruption in all its forms including the sanctioning and prosecution of financial institutions who violate anticorruption laws as well as their employees; b)Participants urged the United Nations to consider upgrading the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters by transforming it to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

On the aspect of enhancing asset recovery and asset return, c) Participants called on countries to cooperate to recover the proceeds of crime and demonstrate strong commitment to ensure the return of disposal of recovered assets to countries of origin.

Among other recommendations, Participants reiterated on the need for countries to ensure that there are adequate mechanisms in place to manage and preserve the value and condition of assets pending the conclusion of confiscation proceedings and where appropriate, non-conviction-based proceedings, to recover identified proceeds of crime, and to deploy the use of such recovered assets in a manner that enhances sustainable development. They also emphasized the need for developing countries to develop capacity to curb illicit financial flows and enhanced Asset Recovery; calling upon African Institutions like the African Capacity building foundation (ACBF) to set up a centre in Abuja in recognition of Nigeria’s strategic importance to the process of recovery of IFF.

Participants at the Conference were; the Keynote speaker, Mr. Akere Muna, a leading Cameroonian Lawyer who is currently the Chair of the International Anti-Corruption Council, a former Vice-Chair Transparency International and member of the High Level Panel on IFF, Officials, Experts, Lawyers, Parliamentarians, Business Executives, drawn from Africa and other parts of the World, as well as Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Regional bodies, Intergovernmental Organizations, United Nations Agencies, Financial Institutions, Professional associations and Academia, Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations.