BY YINKA KOLAWOLE,
Property acquisitions are fast becoming means of money laundering for fraudsters in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), according to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde.
Lamorde disclosed this during a courtesy visit to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, in Abuja. He said the Commission has uncovered money laundering schemes in the FCT in which the perpetrators disguised the proceeds of crime by investing in properties.
The EFCC boss said that the unscrupulous persons involved in the nefarious acts prefer to pay for their acquisitions with cash rather than purchase the properties with bank instruments.
According to him, the laundered funds were frequently converted into foreign currencies through Bureaux de Change before the purchases were made.
He further noted that in order to make it difficult to verify the identities of the new owners or the sources of fund, the perpetrators don’t bother to do change of ownership after such acquisitions.
Lamorde said over 270 cases of land scam were reported to the Commission in the last three years, adding that the Commission suspects insider abuse in some of the cases being investigated and called on the minister to be prepared to initiate disciplinary action against erring officers.
The FCT Minister commended EFCC on its effort to stamp out corruption particularly in the territory, noting that the Commission had supported the FCT administration in curtailing the scourge of corruption and leakages in the FCT especially on land premiums.
“It is sad that the capital territory as a jurisdiction is used as a citadel of corruption and also for perpetuating acts of corruption. People from the states and local government illegally acquire money and come to get it hidden in the FCT through acquisition of properties that are not registered and that is a big concern because it is depriving the FCT of the revenue needed and increasing corruption in the Territory.
It is also increasing security challenges because most of the houses acquired are left vacant and we have no means of knowing who owns them,” he said.
Mohammed further stated that the FCTA was working with the Abuja Geographical Information System, AGIS, to upgrade their system in such a manner that it would be difficult for anybody to impersonate, manipulate or forge land documents.