New Telegraph

FG urged to curb money laundering by real estate investor

Following the alarm raised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on high-wired money laundering in the country’s real estate industry, PriceWater- HouseCooper (PwC) Nigeria is pressurising the Federal Government to parley with the international community in a bid to stop stolen monies from Nigeria that are being used to buy houses abroad. The Partner & Chief Economist, PwC Nigeria, Dr. Andrew S. Nevin, made this known to New Telegraph in Lagos. He said PwC had already submitted critical documents to the Federal Government showing that the country’s real estate industry is the bedrock for highwired money laundering and where mass corruption is taking place in the country currently.

He said the country’s real estate industry had been recording boom in illicit financial outflows that some eminent Nigerians are using to get luxury properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), London in (UK), New York (USA) and other choice countries of the world. He said this was having huge impact on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Nevin explained that Nigeria needed the support of the international community in regulating, checkmating and monitoring of illicit financial outflows through the country’s real estate industry. He said: “We wrote a paper, about five years ago on the economic cost of corruption in Nigeria to the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

“I am not a little surprised when you see stolen money being invested in real estate in other jurisdictions. I mean, one question that the vice president asked us when we presented the papers to him was, what was United Kingdom government doing or particularly, PwC UK doing to stop it? “And the reality is that London is a centralised city like Dubai for corrupt monies for some politicians and eminent Nigerians to buy luxury buildings. So, I have no doubt, the real estate sector may well become the biggest sink of corruption out of many countries, not just only Nigeria, and that is a tragedy.

“Of course, to play in this kind of corrupt ecosystem, it’s not just to corrupt the people, but it’s just also the people that are taking the money here and there. “I think the international community particularly needs to come to Nigeria’s aid in this situation.

So, the UK, because of its role in the world, has a lot to answer for. EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had also said that 90 per cent of money laundering was done through the real estate sector. He stated that although the sector was monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done. According to Bawa, “one of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 per cent to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”

He said there were so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money. Bawa gave an example of a minister, who expressed interest in a $37.5 million property a bank manager put up for sale.

He said: “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and, in the first instance $20 million was evacuated from her house.” While speaking on abandoned Federal Government projects across the country, the PwC Partner & Chief Economist said that no doubt, the scarce capital was responsible for the abandoned government projects nationwide. He noted that some of these building were abandoned for political reasons. Nevin, however, acknowledged that PwC Nigeria only conducted a survey on the abandoned government projects in Nigeria to arrive at N350 billion and cannot emphatically say, if it is going up or going down. He said: “With regard to government’s abandoned housing projects, I don’t know what to say. I mean we all understand the circumstances, we all understand the critical change why people don’t continue their projects.

“I think as we are improving in that sector, there are a lot to do. Government has to come out and set priorities in terms of prices if they want the box to continue. “But obviously, in an environment where we have extremely scarce capital, it is a tragedy to start a work on a viable project and then abandon it for political reasons. “Then, of course, we listed out some of the amounts, but am not sure whether abandoned projects are going up or going down in Nigeria, we can debate that in another forum.”

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