BY ORIAKU IJELE & CHIBUZOR DURU
The fight against corruption and money laundering will in the next few weeks get tougher following revelations that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will redirect its attention to very unfamiliar but critical sectors of the nation.
Saturday Times gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC will be beaming its search light on religious bodies as money launderers have turned to them for facilitation of transfer of huge funds both locally and internationally.
Investigations by the paper revealed that some religious organisations are using their organisation’s bank accounts to aid movement of huge sums of monies in various currencies.
The illicit deal is however being facilitated also by banks, insurance companies, forex dealers, estate developers as well as NGOs.
Saturday Times gathered that the suspected money launderers send such funds from abroad as their ‘widow’s mite’ ‘seed’, ‘tithes’, and ‘offering’ to such religious organisations. According to a reliable source, “In some cases, they pay it as intervention funds or grants, which is to be distributed to the ‘less privileged’ members of the organisations and later reach out to founders of such organisations on a shared interest, immediately such illicit funds hit the religious organisations’ accounts. A lot is going on in the religious organisations. Most of them are aiding money laundering using their organisations’ accounts”.
According to our source, some cash donations to religious organisations are often provided under anonymity for launderers.
He explained these launderers usually donate large sums, disguising them as legitimate offerings and gifts and the organisations pretending to be unaware of the source, collect the monies and by so doing, unknowingly, become a funnel of moving the illicit funds to their owners and serving as warehouses for the dirty money.
According to our source, the EFCC will soon be going after the religious organisations and other financial institutions through obtaining an order of court to instruct the banks to place an order of PND, on the account of a customer, who is under investigation for financial crimes or money laundering offences in order to protect evidence that may aid prosecution.
It was revealed that many religious organisations have been into the practice for so long and are getting way with the crime.
Our correspondent in Abuja gathered that a sensitisation programme, scheduled on Monday, 31 January, 2024, to be organised by the EFCC, is for the sensitisation of religious organisation, youths, banks, students, vice chancellors of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, on the dangers of using their platforms to launder money.
The event is to be hosted by the EFCC, and is entitled; “Youth, Religion and the Fight against Corruption”, is meant for religious and other stakeholders to join hands to fight all forms of economic and financial crimes for a better Nigeria.
The President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is expected to grace the event, to show his commitment to the fight against corruption.