From Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has uncovered about $4.5million (over N535million) looted funds kept in a secret account by a former governor.
[b]The funds were lodged in Cayman Islands, which officials say has now become a haven for public funds stolen by Nigerian officials.
Investigations by The Nation revealed that the ex-governor who died some years ago, ruled a state in the North-Central part of the country. [/b]
It was learnt that he had opened many accounts in Cayman Islands without the knowledge of his family.
Detectives said to avoid being noticed, the deceased operated the accounts with different names, which were coined from his original names and that of some members of his family.
In one of such accounts, the EFCC was able to locate about $4.5million. But contrary to his plans to enjoy the loot after leaving office, the ex-governor died a few a few years ago, leaving behind a family unable to access the looted funds. A highly-placed source told The Nation: "In the course of the EFCC’s search for looted funds stashed in Cayman Islands, the attention of the commission was drawn to the $4.5million in one of the banks by a Nigerian. We later discovered that he was an ex-governor.
"Although the ex-governor did not use his real name, his photographs were conspicuously pasted on the account folder and other documents.
"The EFCC was also told that the former governor had more hidden accounts in some banks in the Islands."
The ex-governor did not list any of his relations, wives or friends as possible beneficiaries in case of death, which he seemed not to have anticipated so soon.
"At present, neither the EFCC nor the family can retrieve the $4.5million not to talk of opening discussions on other secret accounts,’ officials said.
It was learnt that the uncovering of the ex-governor’s loot made the Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, to meet with top government officials of Cayman Islands’ in Cambridge, London last week.
At the meeting, Waziri, The Nation learnt, expressed reservations that 70 per cent of looted funds in Nigeria are now being stashed in Cayman Islands.
The EFCC chairman said investigations by the commission had revealed that Nigerian public officers are now avoiding the United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries.
"Although the officials denied that the Islands were promoting money laundering, Waziri sought for collaboration on how to get the list of Nigerians with accounts in the Islands and details of lodgement," the source said.
"The EFCC chairman was said to have extracted a commitment from the officials of Cayman Islands that henceforth the EFCC would be notified if any Nigerian is opening accounts or transferring money to that country.
It was further learnt that the EFCC might encourage the Federal Government to sign a bilateral agreement on anti-money laundering with the Islands.
"I think when we have such an agreement; the EFCC would be able to repatriate the $4.5million of the ex-governor and other looted funds in Cayman Islands. The ex-governor might have had over N1billion in different accounts.
"Already, the EFCC chairman has briefed the Presidency on the shocking discovery of looted funds in Cayman Islands, especially that of the ex-governor. At the appropriate time, his identity will be revealed. We do not want any action that could affect the repatriation of the $4.5million," the source added.
The Cayman Islands is the fifth-largest banking centre in the world with $1.5 trillion in banking liabilities. The Islands located in the Western Carribbean about 150miles South of Cuba are homes to 279 banks (as of June 2008), 19 of which are licensed to conduct banking activities with domestic and international clients. The remaining 260 are licensed to operate on an international basis with only limited domestic activity.
One reason for the Cayman Islands’ success as an offshore financial centre has been the concentration of top-quality service providers. These include leading global financial institutions like UBS and Goldman Sachs, over 80 administrators, leading accountancy practices and offshore law practices
gathered that since the Islands introduced the Mutual Funds Law in 1993, which has been copied by jurisdictions around the world, the country has grown to be the world’s leading offshore hedge fund jurisdiction.