*No more hiding place for corrupt officials
Nigerians of “questionable characters” who own property in the United Kingdom (UK) were put on notice yesterday — they will soon be exposed.
A criminal finances bill that will introduce the concept of “Unexplained Wealth Orders” is in the works. It is designed to close a loophole which has left the authorities powerless to seize property from overseas criminals, unless such individuals are first convicted in their country of origin.
Property suspected to belong to corrupt politicians, tax evaders and criminals could be seized by enforcement agencies under the proposed laws aimed at tackling London’s reputation as a haven for looted funds.
The Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption hinted of the law yesterday in New York, United States (U.S.) through its Executive Secretary, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye.
Owasanoye told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that negotiations between the Federal Government and the British authorities had reached an advanced stage” to release information about Nigerians, who own property in that country next year”.
According to him, the measure being taken by the governments of both countries is aimed at stepping up the fight against corruption.
He said: “There’s no doubt that rogues in government oppress and impoverish their people by corruption and this must be sanctioned by collective action. We need to make sure that there is no safe haven for corrupt officials to run to.
“Britain has promised that by 2018, it will provide Nigeria with the information about who owns what and where; that’s very helpful.
“These include all the houses that have been bought by public officials or accounts that are held by public officials on which they are right now not paying taxes or which they cannot explain the sources.
“So, if you cannot buy a house in England, you have to look for somewhere else. But, if all countries criminalise this, then it becomes much more difficult unless you want to buy the house on Mars.”
The official said Nigeria and other African countries, who are victims of illicit financial flows, must challenge developed countries to block illicit financial flows from developing countries.
The bill could come into force in the next few months.