Intelligent Agencies Go After 2023 Candidates and Banks
OpenLife Nigeria reports that the political spending which peaked far and above the regulation during recently concluded primary elections may have triggered wholesale investigations into the financial recklessness by 2023 candidates across tiers of government by security agencies.
The security agencies involved are Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
NFIU, formerly a unit under the EFCC, is the central national agency responsible for the coordination of the country’s anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing and counter-proliferation financing frameworks.
Currently, both EFCC and the NFIU are jointly tracking the financial transactions of presidential, governorship, national and state assembly candidates.
The operation also includes focused scrutiny on top bankers who were suspected of enabling Very Important Persons to transfer huge stash of money.
Though 18 candidates are contesting the presidential poll, there are indications that the agencies are focusing on the leading parties and their candidates based on their capacities to generate huge donations, including illicit funds, which could be laundered under campaign or election expenditures.
According to information, NFIU has flagged suspicious transactions valued at over N150 trillion between January and March 2022, according to its Suspicious Transaction Report/Suspicious Activity Report released on Sunday.
The development came as and NFIU officials said they had intensified their surveillance on campaign spending by political parties and their candidates ahead of the 2023 polls.
Multiple EFCC and NFIU sources said their personnel were carrying out a series of joint operations to close in on several suspicious spending by parties, candidates and top chieftains.
Also, the EFCC has deployed its operatives to track candidates’ campaign spending and monitor their bank accounts as part of actions to combat money laundering ahead of the general elections.
The development, it was gathered, was also meant to frustrate the movement of huge cash under the guise of election spending by the candidates and their political parties.
According to the latest NFIU report, the N150tn suspicious transactions were reported by banks, insurance firms, microfinance banks, assets management companies, brokers and other financial institutions.
The report shows that suspicious transactions have risen by 23 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the corresponding period of last year.
Meanwhile, out of the 2,845,927 suspicious transactions recorded by financial institutions in the first quarter of the year, banks alone accounted for 2,810,213, according to the NFIU activity statistics.
By law, financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions are required to file a Suspicious Transaction Report/Suspicious Activity Report with the NFIU detailing known or suspected violations of law or suspicious activities in line with the provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.
According to the NFIU report, during the review period, banks reported 2,810,213 STRs; merchant banks 14,810; assets management companies 8,237; micro-finance banks, 3,258; other financial institutions, 2,729; insurance companies 2,474; primary mortgage institutions, 1,911 and stock brokers 1,333.
Others are insurance brokers 467; trustees, 264; finance companies, 176; development financial institutions, 35; financial institutions 10 and issuing houses, 10.
Increase In Suspicious Transactions
The NFIU also disclosed that suspicious transactions increased by 22.91 per cent in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021.
The financial institutions reported N108.5tn suspicious transactions in the first quarter of 2021.
It honoured 18 requests for information from various countries between January and March.
Last year, the NFIU said it supplied 328 intelligence reports to various security and law enforcement agencies on money laundering (101); fraud/forgery (92); tax evasion (52); bribery/corruption (16); illegal Bureau De Change/forex (16); intimidation/extortion (10); terrorism financing (9) and others.
It also honoured 1,442 requests for information by the military and security agencies (616); law enforcement agencies (532); judiciary (14); the private sector (14) and other competent authorities (266) in the third quarter of 2021, while a total of 1,334 reports were dispatched to the requesting agencies in the same period in 2020.
The unit added, “Only five countries – USA, Japan, Malta, Liechtenstein and Cameroun – forwarded a request for information to the NFIU in both Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.
“Nine countries – Philippines, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, South Africa, Syria, Thailand and Uganda – forwarded requests for information to the NFIU in Q3 2021, while 13 countries – Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Senegal, Latvia, Lithuania, Gambia, Gibraltar, Guinea Bissau, Ireland, United Kingdom, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco – requested information in Q3 2020. Overall, the total number of requests for information received by the NFIU has declined in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020 by eight requests.”
There are reports however that in May that the EFCC had asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to furnish it with the bank accounts and other financial details of the political parties.
In a letter signed by its Director of Operations, Michael Wetkas, the commission demanded a list of all political parties, their designated bank accounts and any other information that could aid its investigation.
It also asked the managing directors of Access Bank Plc and Polaris Bank to provide details of the 14 accounts operated by the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party and another organisation believed to be connected to the opposition party.
Giving an update on the ongoing intelligence operation on Friday, sources explained that the EFCC and the NFIU were scrutinising the financial ebb and flow of money into the accounts of the leading candidates, particularly, those who command a huge financial chest.