Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit has flagged suspicious transactions worth over N150tn between January and March 2022, according to the Suspicious Transaction Report/Suspicious Activity Report released on Sunday.
Development The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and NFIU officials said they had stepped up surveillance on campaign spending by political parties and their candidates in the run-up to the 2023 polls.
Multiple EFCC and NFIU sources said their operatives were carrying out some joint operations to shut down various suspicious expenses of parties, candidates and top leaders.
The NFIU, formerly a unit under the EFCC, is the central national agency responsible for the coordination of the country’s anti-money laundering, anti-terrorist financing and anti-proliferation financing frameworks.
The EFCC has also deployed its operatives to monitor candidates’ campaign expenses and monitor their bank accounts as part of anti-money laundering actions ahead of the general elections.
The development, it was gathered, also meant that candidates and their political parties wanted to thwart the movement of money under the guise of election expenses.
According to the latest NFIU report, N150tn suspicious transactions were reported by banks, insurance companies, microfinance banks, asset management companies, brokers and other financial institutions.
The report shows that suspicious transactions have increased by 23% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, of the 2,845,927 suspicious transactions registered by financial institutions in the first quarter of the year, banks alone had 2,810,213, according to NFIU activity statistics.
According to the Act, financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions are required to submit a Suspicious Transaction Report/Suspicious Activity Report to the NFIU detailing known or suspected violations of the law or suspicious activities as set out in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2011.
According to the NFIU report, during the review period, banks reported 2,810,213 STRs; commercial banks 14,810; asset management companies 8,237; microfinance banks, 3,258; other financial institutions, 2,729; insurance companies 2,474; major mortgage institutions, 1,911 and stockbrokers 1,333.
Others are insurance brokers 467; trustees, 264; financial companies, 176; development financial institutions, 35; financial institutions 10 and issuing houses, 10.
Suspicious transactions are on the rise
The NFIU also reported that suspicious transactions increased by 22.91 percent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Financial institutions reported N108.5tn suspicious transactions in the first quarter of 2021.
The intelligence agency stated: “According to the (transactions) table, all businesses in the agency had an increase in suspicious transactions reported to the NFIU in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021, with the exception of Development Finance Institutions.
“Overall, the total number of STRs received by the NFIU in agency business increased by 22.91% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021.”
The NFIU disclosed that it recorded suspicious transactions totaling N1.9 billion between July and December 2021.
Between October and December, the financial intelligence agency recorded suspicious transactions valued at N1,706tn with banks accounting for N1,704tn.
Also, out of the 4,117 STRs registered by the agency between July and September 2021 valued at N208.6bn, banks had 3,967 transactions valued at N206.5bn.
In the third quarter of 2020, the unit recorded 4,392 STRs valued at N292.2bn with banks alone carrying out 4,328 suspicious transactions.
Comparing STRs in the third quarter of 2020 and 2021, the NFIU said: “Major mortgage institutions, insurance companies, microfinance banks, commercial banks, trusts and financial companies reported an increase in suspicious transactions received in the 2021 quarter compared to the 2020 quarter.
“However, banks, stockbrokers and development finance institutions saw a decline in the number of transactions in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020. Overall, STRs received in Q3 2021 were down 6.21% compared to Q3 2020.”
The financial intelligence agency noted that insurance companies and other financial institutions saw an increase in suspicious activity in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021.
Also, financial institutions reported currency transactions estimated at N153.5tn in the first quarter of the year.
Financial institutions must submit reports for each currency transaction: deposit, withdrawal, currency exchange or other payment or transfer within a certain threshold to prevent money laundering.
The NFIU concluded that banks, microfinance banks, commercial banks, insurance companies, custodians, insurance brokers, trusts, financial companies, development finance institutions and registrars reported to the agency an increase in CTR in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth. quarter of 2020
“However, asset management firms, stockbrokers, prime mortgage institutions and issuers experienced a decrease in CTRs submitted to the NFIU in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020. Overall, the number of CTRs submitted to the NFIU increased by 4% in 2021. 10 percent, 75 compared to the quarter of 2020,” the unit said.
The NFIU provides reports
Likewise, the NFIU announced that it provided 103 intelligence reports to the military and other security agencies in the first quarter of the year; 101 to other competent authorities and 46 to law enforcement agencies, for a total of 250.
From January to March, it respected 18 requests for information from various countries.
Last year, the NFIU said it provided 328 intelligence reports to various security and law enforcement agencies on money laundering (101); fraud/forgery (92); tax fraud (52); bribery/corruption (16); illegal Bureau De Change/forex (16); intimidation/extortion (10); financing of terrorism (9) and others.
Likewise, to the 1,442 requests for information made by the military and security agencies (616); law enforcement agencies (532); judicial power (14); private sector (14) and other competent authorities (266) in the third quarter of 2021, and a total of 1,334 reports were sent to the applicant organizations in the same period of 2020.
The unit added: “Only five countries – the US, Japan, Malta, Liechtenstein and Cameroon – sent requests for information to the NFIU in Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.
“Nine countries – Philippines, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, South Africa, Syria, Thailand and Uganda – sent requests for information to the NFIU in the quarter of 2021, and 13 countries – Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Senegal, Latvia, Lithuania, Gambia. , Gibraltar, Guinea Bissau, Ireland, United Kingdom, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco – information requested in Q3 2020. Overall, the number of requests for information received by the NFIU has decreased compared to eight requests in Q3 2021.”
EFCC, NFIU operations
Meanwhile, The PUNCH reliably gathered that the EFCC and NFIU are monitoring the financial transactions of presidential, governorship, state and state assembly candidates.
The operation also includes an investigation into the main bankers who allow the transfer of large sums of money to very important people.
While 18 presidential candidates are contesting the polls, there are signs that agencies are focusing on major parties and their candidates based on their ability to generate large donations, including illegal funds, that can be laundered as campaign or election expenses.
Our correspondent revealed in an exclusive report in May that the EFCC had asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to supply bank accounts and other financial data of political parties.
In a letter signed by its Chief Operating Officer, Michael Wetkas, the committee asked for a list of all political parties, designated bank accounts and any other information that could assist its investigation.
He also asked the managing directors of Access Bank Plc and Polaris Bank to provide details of 14 accounts managed by All Progressive Congress and Peoples Democratic Party and another organization linked to the opposition party.
Giving an update on the ongoing intelligence operation on Friday, sources explained that the EFCC and NFIU were looking into the flow of money in the accounts of top candidates, especially those commanding a large financial coffers.
A source said: “The anti-graft commission is serious about preventing candidates from using this election period to launder stolen public funds, which is why it is conducting security surveillance on top bankers, managers, compliance officers and others in the operations department of financial institutions. Money Any breach of bleaching protocol will be dealt with.
“They (financial institutions) have been warned to report any suspicious transaction or movement of large sums of money in the remaining 100 days before the general elections.”
Apart from the bank managers, the anti-graft agencies were also learned to have issued a strict directive to the chief compliance officers of the banks to enforce the necessary anti-money laundering protocol in their financial institutions.
Compliance officers were to report suspicious transactions by political parties and their candidates to the NFIU and the EFCC for action.
Although the action required of banks, major mortgage institutions, insurance companies, microfinance banks, commercial banks, trust and finance companies, stockbrokers and development finance institutions is mandatory, it was suspected that many operators were not honest fill up
The findings also indicate that financial intelligence agencies were equally monitoring Bureau De Change operators, following reports that some of them were aiding politicians and laundered looted funds.
Asked about the operation, EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said: “I don’t have that information now, but I will find out and let you know.”
However, Uwujaren did not respond to subsequent calls and SMSes on the matter.
Experts reverse operations
An intelligence and security consultant, Abuh Adam, said the EFCC operation would help curb vote-buying in the elections.
He called on the EFCC to expose and prosecute anyone found guilty.
Adams stated, “The result is what matters to Nigeria. This will make people aware now or in the future of how to use money incentives on people. People will see it as a witch hunt, but it is the right thing to do. In America, if politicians abuse funds, they don’t come close to politics. but in Nigeria, politics serves as a cover. Let those with illegal funds be identified, exposed and prosecuted.”
Another security expert, Oladele Fajana, said: “For me it is welcome, but my questions are: will the right things be done in the end? Will this spread to the so-called major political parties or will it end as a witch hunt against some people and their parties?’