The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) has said it would intensify ongoing investigations of completed but unoccupied estates in Nigeria as part of measures to address Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).

The Director of Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management (ATRM), Adedayo Kayode, gave the revelation at the opening of a two-day capacity building for investigators, prosecutors and tax inspectors on IFFs, organised by the commission in collaboration with Ford Foundation.

Presenting a paper titled, “Illicit Financial Flows in Real Estate,” Kayode identified continuation of ongoing investigation of completed but unoccupied estates across the federation as a solution to the menace.

The agency’s spokesperson, Azuka Ogugua, in a statement yesterday, quoted the director as saying: “The ICPC, in accordance with its mandate to curb corruption, is currently investigating cases of completed, but abandoned estates scattered around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with the intention of identifying those that are instruments of IFFs.

“Furthermore, 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. We need a coordinated and concerted approach to fight IFFs – the law enforcement agencies need continuous investment in capacity building to trace and follow the money, their need for implementation and investigation of breaches of the beneficial ownership rule and data availability and intelligence sharing are must.”

Kayode listed other solutions to include sanctions on land holding without development after prescribed number of years; enforcement and compliance of investigation of capital gain tax on real estate transactions; strengthening of international cooperation on investigation of cross-border real estate purchase transactions; full implementation of beneficial ownership regulation and regulation of foreign exchange trade and movement.

Noting that IFFs are laundered to disguise illicit origins, the director lauded efforts of government in the recent SIM-NIN linkage and deactivation of non-compliant subscribers as a good step in the right direction.

He went on: “A key sector to the laundering of IFFs at their origin globally is the real estate, which due to its informal and little-regulated nature, proves very attractive. Key culprits involved in the laundering of IFFs in the real estate sector are top public officers.

“The laundering is conducted in collaboration with real estate developers and accomplices in the land administration departments.

“Launderers of illicit wealth in the Nigerian real estate sector often engage in cash purchases, which are done through the use of foreign exchange, often procured from bureau de changes (BDCs). Often times, after purchase, the property titles are not changed to reflect the new ownership.”

Earlier ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN), decried impact of corruption, IFFs and tax evasion on the economy, observing that it had hampered national development.

Source : The Guardian