Starting next year, the British government will share with its Nigerian counterpart all available information about the number of Nigerians who own property in the U.K.
Nigerian officials say the new action is meant to give an added push to the country’s anti-corruption war. Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption Executive Secretary Bolaji Owosanoye told reporters in New York that negotiations in this regard have reached an advanced stage, according to News Agency of Nigeria.
“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 you [corrupt officials] to run to.
“Britain has promised that by 2018, she 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 criminalize this, then it becomes much more difficult unless you want to buy the house on Mars,” Owosanoye said.
Owosanoye emphasized that countries in the West (Europe and America) have a moral and ethical responsibility to block the flow of illicit funds stolen from developing countries.
“Receiving states — the countries of the North — need to be proactive to block the proceeds of crime even before a request is made by victim countries.
“This is because, in many situations, it is clear that illegality is taking place.
“We think that reversing the burden of proof to improve the confiscation of criminal proceeds of crime would help, especially when we are going after the asset and not necessarily the person.
“If the person who claims to own the asset would not cooperate in giving information, then this should be a point in favor of the state,” Owosanoye added.
Last May, former British Prime Minister David Cameron was overheard in a private conversation describing Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt.”
His comments sparked online outrage from Nigerian social media users who described it as hypocritical and duplicitous considering that a significant stash of the funds stolen from Nigeria and other African nations is lodged in his country.
Nevertheless, it must be said that over the years British authorities have actually stepped up efforts to ensure that the U.K. is not considered a safe haven for laundering illicit funds. In 2010, U.K.’s police department led the arrest and conviction of former Nigerian governor James Ibori who was accused of embezzling government funds.