By Austin Aneke
It is well known that Development is all about the exploitation of human and material resources, producing goods and services for the satisfaction of the needs of a people. However it is also accepted that this notion of development does not apply to a lot of developing countries especially African countries because of the attitude of their leaders. In most African countries resources are exploited using foreign technologies, producing goods and services for the satisfaction of their corrupt leaders and their families and accomplices. Corruption is the major cankerworm hampering development in Africa. African leaders engage in blatant stealing of resources belonging to everyone. This obviously hinders progress and general well being. It also triggers economic migration as people decide to move to more secure, less vandalized and burgled societies.
According to recently released US senate report, ‘Several African leaders, their relatives and associates used western Banks including British Banks to move hundreds of millions of dollars out of their countries and into accounts and companies they controlled’. These so called leaders squander their countries wealth buying expensive goods abroad. One important discovery made by the Committee, relates to ‘instances where the checks in identity and the sources of funds were less rigorous than US citizens face when trading in two figure sums in high street branches’. The committee also discovered that a number of professionals, lawyers, lobbyists, and estate agents, were used to funnel millions of dollars in illicit money into US’. According to it ,’politically powerful foreign criminals and those close to them have found ways to use the US financial system to enhance and protect their ill-gotten wealth. This is striking because their conniving professionals in western countries keep the proceeds of their deals quiet when the deals pull smoothly with their African counterparts. But the deal turns and is baptized Advance Fee Fraud whenever it goes wrong, or when they are duped in the process. It really takes two to tango. Advance Fee money deals were working formula which corrupt African leaders used to siphon foreign exchange out of their countries in the 70s and 80s. Their western accomplices started losing money in the 90s when their younger less willing African counterparts decided not to fulfill their own parts of these international deals, thereby duping the westerners of Advance Fees. The western accomplices started shouting Fraud and the western media which remained silent when the deals were working fine, started to highlight the developments. What a sad state of affairs.
The report also exposed their latest techniques for siphoning money. African thieves called leaders employ maiden names of their wives into illicit use. Their wives open accounts using their maiden names and use them obviously and discreetly to receive large offshore wire transfers. They now use them to fund lavish life style and move money along a chain of accounts and securities. Some have exploited loopholes in western laws exempting escrow agents from money laundering controls. Furthermore they use their sons and daughters studying in western countries as usual, to receive millions of dollars in illicit funds. It is difficult to decipher whether western Banks are simply turning a blind eye over clearly suspicious accounts and transactions and dodgy customer profiles.
The US Committee Report, however, is one of the recent gimmicks by western nations regarding money laundering. Everyone knows that the West is safe haven for stolen African money since post-colonial times. Switzerland in the heart of Europe is a known source of economic harm for African countries because of the guaranteed safety she provides for stolen money and resources. The same applies to countries and Banks in Western Europe. Nevertheless it is interesting that a powerful western Senate Committee is exposing the current trends. It may be the start of the inevitable forensic examination of the lopsided international money laundering game.