The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC said it has commenced investigation into hundreds of real estates scattered in the Federal Capital Territory over suspected illicit financial flows.

The Director, Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management of the ICPC, Adedayo Kayode, revealed this on Monday while speaking on ‘Illicit Financial Flow in Real Estate’ at an event in Abuja.

He said, “The ICPC in accordance with its mandate to curb corruption is presently investigating cases of myriad of completed but abandoned estates scattered around the Federal Capital Territory with the intention of identifying those instruments of IFFs.

“We are collaborating with the National Assembly, to investigate, study and promulgate appropriate legislation to stem the tide of corruption in the real estate sector.

Kayode said the commission has been pushing hard on asset recovery both locally and internationally.

As at 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics said the country’s housing gap was around 17 million housing units.

According to him, filling the gap has made the real estate sector lucrative. while it has also promoted illicit financial flows.

He accused some real estate investors for concealing illicit financial flow in the sector.

According to him, most empty estates in the FCT were developed through illicit financial activities.

He said any asset that its legitimacy cannot be proven will be forfeited by their owners.

Kayode explained that even when money is received genuinely but transmitted through IFF, the deal which the money was applied to becomes illegal.

He said, “The hubs of real estate development in Nigeria are Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt which Abuja is perceived to have the greater number of real estate development and higher property value. I am sure that this may be because Abuja is the seat of power.

“Because of the housing deficit and the boom that we are experiencing, in the housing industry, people see it as a very good opportunity to invest their illicit fund.”

The director said most of the suspicious deals done in the real estate sector are carried out in cash and funded by Bureau de Change operators.

“Most of the time, most of these people don’t pass the money through the financial system, what they do is to go to the bureau de Change to buy dollars and then pay in dollars.

“Often times also, after purchasing, the property titles are not changed to reflect the new ownership. So, even at the land registry, the registration of the property is still in the name of the original owner and the land and property must have changed hands many times.”

According to him, at the global stage, Dubai is the global headquarters of illicit financial flows due to its weak laws that conceals identities of money launders and illicit entrepreneurs.

He further revealed that Nigerians are among the top actors that own real estates in Dubai.

The ICPC director said, “Countries whose citizens are leading among Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and illicit actors that own real estate in Dubai are Armenia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa and Thailand.

“We need a coordinated and concerted approach to fight IFFs. The effort of the government in the recent SIM card/NIN matching and deactivation of non-compliance is a good step in the right direction.”

Source : The Whistler