By Chesa Chesa
The Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has clarified that his initial comment about a Minister’s involvement in real estate money laundering to the tune of $37 million, was not about any cabinet member in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
Bawa, who had made the initial statement during a television interview with a television station, had recounted how $27 million cash was conveyed from the Minister’s house to pay for the real estate, with the connivance of the Managing Director of a commercial bank.
Appearing at a press briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday, the EFCC boss explained that he was actually referring to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Madueke.
He stressed that he merely referenced the ongoing case of the former minister as an example, saying that it did not involve any minister in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
When asked when the former minister would be prosecuted, he said she would be charged when she becomes available.
Madueke is currently in the United Kingdom as the EFCC says it has been making efforts to repatriate her to fave trial in Nigeria.
Bawa further stated that “a lot of proceeds of crime are being laundered in real estate and with cash. Whether the proceeds of crime come from terrorism, kidnapping, public sector and private sector corruption, they are using it to buy.
“One of the problems that we have, that we have identified has to do with activities of bureau de change for instance. Every week the Central Bank of Nigeria is giving out close to about $100million to about 5,000 BDCs and we have identified some companies are out there in the hall where they will be buying your $10,000 that you are collecting to have it in bulk to sell. And then people are using this.
“You can carry $1million and go and buy houses. People are willing to sell and to let go there properties. It’s a huge problem that we need to address.”
Asked how much is laundered annually from real estate, he said: “Billions and billions of naira are being used for laundering in real estate. Let me give you an example. I just told you that $37. 5million was used in acquiring a property, $55million was used in acquiring Avic Towers in Lagos by Kola Aluko.
“Market value of houses has not crashed in this country, they are going up. Estates are cropping up in Abuja left, right, centre every day. There are estates in this country that are sold off-plan, sold and paid for.
“So, it is a huge problem that we need to work with the media to unearth this issue. On our part, we are vigorously going after that, after the real estates, particularly in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. That is an avenue that we have identified as an area where they are hiding money.”
On how many properties have been seized by the EFCC for money laundering, Bawa replied that “seizure of property is an act of investigation. When you identify a property and you seize it, it is different from when you have obtained an interim forfeiture and of course, final forfeiture.
“So, it will not be tidy for me to tell you properties that we seized because it is still under that area of investigation.”