US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2542

MONEY LAUNDERING CONTROLS IN NIGERIA

Identifier: 01ABUJA2542
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2542 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-10-09 11:17:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: KCRM EFIN SNAR NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 ABUJA 002542 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
TREASURY FOR DEP.SECRETARY'S OFFICE AND FINCEN 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KCRM, EFIN, SNAR, NI 
SUBJECT: MONEY LAUNDERING CONTROLS IN NIGERIA 
 
REF: A. A) ABUJA 2521 B) STATE 170551 
     B. C) ABUJA 2416 D) ABUJA 2118 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. 
 
 
1.(U) The following assessment of Nigeria,s money laundering 
control regime is provided for Washington end-users as a 
reference guide and draws on recent Emboffs, discussions 
with various GON law enforcement and Central Bank officials 
responsible for money laundering and banking controls. 
 
 
The Landscape 
------------- 
 
 
2.(SBU) There is no reliable estimate of the amount of 
criminal money laundered in or through Nigeria.  Canvassing 
of senior GON law enforcement and Central Bank officials has 
produced general agreement that non-drug criminal proceeds 
account for at least half of Nigeria,s money laundering 
program, if not more.  All agree that no one source of 
criminal activity can match the strength of the drug trade, 
but all agree that these sources are many and include: public 
corruption, "419" advance-fee fraud, trafficking in women and 
children, and the illegal arms trade.  This conclusion seems 
sound given the apparent magnitude of the proceeds of 
corruption alone, including the billions reportedly stolen 
from public coffers under military rule.  Only some in 
Nigeria,s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) 
insist that drug proceeds account for the bulk of money 
laundering here. 
 
 
Legal Structure 
--------------- 
 
 
3.(SBU) Nigeria,s legal tool for dealing with money 
laundering lies solely within a 1995 decree signed into force 
by former military dictator Sani Abacha.  No law preceded it 
and there has been no new legislation to date (though some 
revisions are planned, as reported below).  This law sought 
to bring Nigeria into conformity with the 1988 UN Convention 
on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (aka the Vienna Drug 
Convention) by outlawing drug money laundering.  In that 
regard, the law seems to address adequately the laundering of 
all proceeds from drug trafficking.  Both the NDLEA and the 
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are identified as the competent 
authorities charged with monitoring individuals, bank 
deposits in excess of 500,000 naira (equivalent to USD 4,460) 
or corporate entities, deposits in excess of two million 
naira (equivalent to USD 17,800).  The NDLEA, however, is 
given the lead in investigating money laundering offenses as 
it is granted sweeping powers to: place any bank account 
under surveillance; tap any telephone line; access any 
computer system; and obtain any private communications of 
financial or commercial records.  The CBN is not given these 
investigative powers. 
 
 
4(SBU) The law contains adequate provisions for the 
prosecution of individuals directly involved or abetting the 
laundering of drug proceeds, including bank officials and 
even entire corporate entities.  Tough penalties of 
imprisonment up to 25 years are prescribed for convicted 
offenders.  The responsibility of proving the criminality of 
proceeds, however, is not clearly defined -- whether the 
prosecution,s to prove through investigation or the 
defendant,s to show that the proceeds were of a legitimate 
nature. 
 
 
GON Authorities 
--------------- 
 
 
5.(SBU) As noted above, the NDLEA is clearly identified as 
the lead agency charged with investigating and prosecuting 
money laundering.  The CBN is identified as a cooperating 
agency in monitoring banks, though criminal investigative 
powers are reserved for the NDLEA.  As of this writing, the 
NDLEA has a Money Laundering Directorate (upgraded earlier 
this year from a former sub-entity under the NDLEA,s 
Investigations Directorate) consisting of the Assistant 
Director heading this office and a staff of 15, of which 10 
are investigators.  This Directorate has no working fax or 
international communications capability; communications to 
Directorate staff requires passing a message through the 
NDLEA Headquarters numbers or using the Assistant Director,s 
personal cellular phone.  The Directorate has no vehicles and 
has not yet prosecuted any money laundering case.  Though the 
NDLEA has the legal authority to demand regular bank 
reporting of deposits above the 500,000 naira threshold and 
to demand bank records in the pursuit of a specific 
investigation, it lacks the resources to store and analyze 
this information. 
 
 
6.(SBU) The CBN, also identified by the 1995 law as a 
competent authority, houses a small Money Laundering 
Surveillance Unit (MLSU) in Lagos.  This unit is charged with 
receiving reports from Nigeria,s 50-plus banks on deposits 
over the 500,000 naira threshold and licensing the banks, 
operations, including the selection of their senior 
officials.  The CBN seems to have much better relationships 
with the banks it regulates, and it can conduct 
administrative investigations but it does not have arrest or 
prosecution powers.  The CBN,s Deputy Governor, in a recent 
discussion with Emboffs (ref a), also cited the existence in 
Abuja of a CBN "International Financial Transactions 
Surveillance Office (IFTSO)" that seeks to coordinate 
inter-agency monitoring of potential international money 
laundering through Nigeria, though the output of this office 
is unclear.  Indeed, given the CBN,s lack of law enforcement 
jurisdiction, it is unlikely that such a body could produce 
criminal investigations and prosecutions. 
 
 
7.(SBU) Through its close interaction with Nigeria,s banks, 
the CBN seems to understand the fundamentals of money 
laundering better than the NDLEA, but it lacks the law 
enforcement power endowed the NDLEA to demand bank records. 
In a simple but poignant analysis of this dueling authority, 
one official noted that "the NDLEA has the brawn and the CBN 
the brain, but the two don,t work well together." 
 
 
Definitional Differences Mask Deficiencies 
------------------------------------------ 
 
 
8.(SBU) In talks with Nigerian law enforcement officials, 
actions often described as pertaining to "money laundering" 
are in fact the seizure of cash assets directly related to 
crimes.  Under various Nigerian laws -- e.g. the 1995 "419" 
advance-fee fraud law -- physical and cash assets seized by 
law enforcement personnel through the course of enforcement 
action are subject to forfeiture upon conviction.  When 
pressed for elaboration, however, these officials admit that 
few or no additional or separate criminal cases are opened 
into the movement of criminal proceeds; i.e. the 
investigation of bank records or the investigation of 
individuals abetting the placement of criminal funds.  When 
defendants are prosecuted for organized crime activities -- 
drug trafficking, 419 fraud, car theft -- money laundering is 
seldom if ever added as a charge for prosecution.  In a 
recent meeting with Post's RNLEO, the Director General of the 
West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management 
(WAIFEM), a former senior CBN official, stated that there has 
not been one money laundering case prosecuted in Nigeria. 
While this statement remains unverified, it highlights the 
anemic law enforcement response to Nigeria,s considerable 
money laundering problem. 
 
 
The FATF,s Naming of Nigeria as a "NCCT" 
---------------------------------------- 
 
 
9.(SBU) In declaring Nigeria a "Non-Cooperating Country or 
Territory (NCCT)," the Africa-Middle East Review Group 
(AMERG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) pointed to 
the lack of the a response from the GON to 12 questions posed 
in a formal letter from the AMERG as part of the AMERG,s 
review.  The FATF report also cites several apparent serious 
deficiencies in Nigeria,s money laundering control regime. 
Unfortunately, the GON seems to have focussed on its failure 
to respond to the AMERG,s questionnaire in a timely fashion 
as the cause of its NCCT status, while not paying due 
attention to the substantive concerns of the AMERG. 
 
 
10.(SBU) In the FATF,s formal NCCT report, Nigeria was 
faulted for deficiencies in the areas of the FATF,s NCCT 
criteria: 5, 10, 17, 19, and 24. (the report and the entire 
list of NCCT criteria can be found on the FATF,s website -- 
www.oecd.org/fatf) These criteria, in order, are: a) 
inadequate rules for the licensing and creation of financial 
institutions, including assessing the backgrounds of managers 
and beneficial owners; b) excessive secrecy provisions; c) 
lack of identification of the beneficial owner(s) of legal 
and business entities; d) administrative obstacles to 
international cooperation; and e) lack of an exchange of 
mutual legal assistance. 
 
 
11.(SBU) Clearly some of these cited deficiencies are the 
result of the GON,s failure to respond to the FATF,s 
questionnaire.  The perceived failure of the GON to install 
an adequate structure to screen bank managers, beneficial 
owners and account holders may not take into account some 
provisions under Nigerian law and within CBN regulations. 
 
 
12.(SBU) On the other hand, the FATF review strangely omits 
any failure of Nigeria to comply with FATF recommendation 
number 4 -- "extending the offense of drug money laundering 
to one based on serious offenses."  Neither does the review 
note that fails to meet NCCT criterion number 29 --"absence 
of a financial intelligence unit or of an equivalent 
mechanism." 
 
 
 
 
No Full Coverage of Predicate Offenses 
-------------------------------------- 
 
 
13.(SBU) Nigeria lacks a money laundering law that covers the 
full range of money laundering derived from "serious 
offenses" (FATF Recommendation number 4).  Most observers 
agree that the 1995 law should be amended or superceded by 
legislation that allows for additional predicate offenses. 
There is a move afoot, led by the NDLEA, to expand the 1995 
law to cover a number of specific offenses including those 
mentioned in para 2.  Clearly this is essential for an 
effective anti-money laundering effort in Nigeria and we 
should support it.  In promoting this legislative reform, 
however, the NDLEA wishes to maintain its supremacy in 
coordinating all of Nigeria,s anti-money laundering efforts. 
 This would essentially put the NDLEA into a much broader 
legal mandate on criminal investigations -- cutting across 
jurisdictions of the Police, Central Bank, and the 
Anti-Corruption Commission.  We do not see this as practical 
or advisable.  The NDLEA is struggling to fulfill its current 
mandate as a drug enforcement agency; it does not have the 
resources to carry out effectively such a broad mandate and 
scope of responsibility.  We are encouraging the Office of 
the Presidency to create a new centralized unit to fulfill 
this function, such as the proposed Financial Crimes 
Commission (see below). 
 
 
No Financial Intelligence Unit or Central Body 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
 
14.(SBU) Closely related to this deficiency is the need to 
replace the NDLEA with a centralized government unit that can 
coordinate government-wide anti-money laundering activities, 
serve as a clearinghouse for intelligence, and serve as a 
central interface for international queries on money 
laundering investigations.  Highlighting all of these 
deficiencies is our recent request, based on President 
Bush,s new Executive Order of September 23 seeking to freeze 
the assets of suspected terrorists, to screen accounts 
connected with 27 individuals identified by the USG as 
terrorists.  The Government of Nigeria is not able to provide 
a full response, as there is no one centralized database on 
money laundering. 
 
 
GON Commitment: A new Financial Crimes Commission 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
 
15.(SBU) In part responding to international concern over 
Nigeria,s money laundering problem, President Obasanjo is 
currently planning the creation of a Financial Crimes 
Commission (FCC) that would centralize all law enforcement 
and policy coordination against myriad financial crimes in 
Nigeria.  This proposal originated in the office of the 
President,s Special Advisor for Drugs and Financial Crimes 
and sought to create an agency akin to the NDLEA that would 
conduct a more aggressive and better coordinated law 
enforcement effort against financial fraud and money 
laundering.  The proposed FCC apparently would reside in the 
Office of the President and would have full investigative and 
prosecutorial powers.  It would be staffed by officers on 
detail from the Police, NDLEA, CBN, and other security 
agencies.  We see this as the best option for Nigeria,s 
addressing the FATF,s concerns -- offering an agency that 
could centralize the GON,s anti-money laundering campaign 
while housing a "FIU" to serve as a clearinghouse for money 
laundering intelligence in part to improve cooperation with 
the international community.  In an October 8 meeting with 
the Ambassador, President Obasanjo,s National Security 
Advisor stated that the FCC proposal would soon be sent to 
the National Assembly for approval; he expressed confidence 
that the FCC would be created by the end of the year. 
 
 
Jeter 

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