Recalcitrant Debtors Get 2 Weeks Deadline ….. As EFCC probes Mortgage banks

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The anti-graft giant Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has given debtors of recently bailed out banks two weeks to pay up or face another round of action from the anti-graft agency. The latest ultimatum is coming following reports from the affected banks that most of the debtors had reneged on their promise to pay up within a stipulated period. According to the statement made available to through its spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi, he said:

“It is worrisome that those that made part payments with a promise to pay up within a certain period following the intervention of the EFCC, have failed on their own terms. It is therefore necessary to remind them that the recent withdrawal of the EFCC operatives from the affected banks should not be misconstrued or taken advantage of.

“Since our investigation of the criminal flavor of these loans is still on-going, we therefore wish to warn those that have reneged on the repayment terms not to be taken by surprise at the end of the latest two weeks grace when the Commission shall again move decisively against defaulters. It is our wish to round off our operations in the affected banks by the end of the year so that the banks can run smoothly without any further interference from next year. As such, it is imperative that all concerned should make haste to fulfill their promises to enable the Commission concentrate fully on the prosecution of those already found culpable.”

Still combating graft in the financial sectors, Chairman of the Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, on Monday (23 Nov.), said the anti-graft agency will henceforth, focus its attention on Other Financial Institutions, OFIs, such as mortgage firms and discount houses in its efforts to rid the country of money laundering and terrorism financing. Other Financial Institutions, which the EFCC Chairman said have become potentially weak link in the war against money laundering in Nigeria , include: Discount Houses, Primary Mortgage Institutions and Micro Finance Banks.

Mrs. Waziri who was represented by Emmanuel Akomaye, Secretary to the Commission, made the remark at the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Terrorist Financing training/seminar, organized by the EFCC through the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, for other financial institutions.

“Focusing on the OFIs or strengthening AML/CFT measures within the OFIs sector will help us weed out unscrupulous operators who have brought disrepute to other sector; enhance business transparency and promote legitimate private business growth; provide a fair and enabling environment for all OFIs operators; increase investors confidence thereby attracting more investment and facilitate the prevention and detection of money laundering and all associated predicate offences,” Waziri said.

According to her, empirical evidence shows that criminals are gradually moving towards Other Financial Institutions to commit crimes because of the relatively weak AML/CFT regulations. The OFIs, she said have become a potential weak link in the war against money laundering in Nigeria . “The stigma of being the weak link does not bode well for the OFIs sub-sector, the professions within the sub-sector and indeed the overall implementation of Nigeria's AML/CFT regime”, she added.

She, however, lamented that money laundering and the associated offences are the major cancer afflicting the country's development. “These crimes have had adverse impact on national development and the country's standing within the international community. In Nigeria, the negative impact of these crimes has manifested in reputational damage to the image of the country, loss of foreign direct investment, poor infrastructural development, dwindling confidence and distortions in our political as well as financial and Designated Non Financial Systems among other things,” she explained.

Mrs. Waziri urged the participants and other stakeholders to cooperate and partner with the NFIU by fulfilling their obligations under the relevant laws and regulations in order to effectively confront the menace of money laundering, terrorist financing and other related crimes in Nigeria. “Cooperation and partnership are necessary to consolidate and build on the progress so far made in this regard,” she said.

Norman Wokoma, Director, NFIU, charged the participants to imbibe the lessons from the training. He said the training, which could not have come at a better time than now, should reinvigorate them in ensuring a better society. The two days seminar/training has among its objectives, creating awareness on Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Terrorist Financing among operators of Discount Houses, Primary Mortgage Institutions, PMIs and Micro Finance Banks. It is also aimed at enhancing operators' responsiveness to their obligations under the Anti-Money laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and guides the operators of Discount Houses, Primary Mortgage Institutions, Micro Finance Banks on filing cash transactions, foreign transactions and suspicious transactions reports.

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