In his quest for more potent laws against money laundering and to rev up the fight against corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday presented two bills before the Senate for amendment.
They are the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016 and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2016.
The president, in a letter to the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, which was read on the floor of the Senate, sought expeditious consideration of the two bills for more potent war against financial crimes in the country.
The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016, if passed into law, would expand the scope of money laundering offenses, provide protection for employees of various institutions as well as bodies who may discover money laundering, and the establishment of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
The bill also seeks to enhance customer due diligence, provide appropriate penalties and expand the scope of supervisory bodies, while recognising the role of certain self-regulatory organisations to address the challenges faced in implementation of comprehensive anti-money regime.
The second bill, Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2016, on the other hand, seeks to facilitate the provision and obtaining by Nigeria of international assistance in criminal matters, including the provision and obtaining of evidence.
The Bill also seeks the making of arrangements for persons to give evidence or assist in criminal investigations; recovery, forfeiture or confiscation of property in respect of offences; the restraining of dealings in property or the freezing of assets that may be recovered.
It also seeks the forfeiting, or confiscation in respect of offences, the execution of request for search and seizure, the location and identification of witnesses and suspects, the service of documents and other matters connected with it.
In the letter addressed to the president of the Senate, President Buhari urged the Senate to ensure quick passage of the two bills.
The letter reads in part: “Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016: This bill provides for the repeal of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended in 2012, to make comprehensive provisions to prohibit the laundering of the criminal activities, expand the scope of money laundering offences, provide protection for employees of various institutions, bodies and professions who may discover money laundering, enhance customer due diligence, provide appropriate penalties and expand the scope of supervisory bodies, while recognising the role of certain self-regulatory organisations to address the challenges faced in implementation of comprehensive anti-money regime”.
The president continued: “The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2016. This bill seeks to facilitate the provision and obtaining by Nigeria of international assistance in criminal matters, including the provision and obtaining of evidence, the making of arrangements for persons to give evidence or assist in criminal investigations, recovery, forfeiture or confiscation of property in respect of offences; the restraining of dealings in property or the freezing of assets that may be recovered, forfeited or confiscated in respect of offences; the execution of request for search and seizure, the location and identification of witnesses and suspects, the service of documents and other matters connected herewith.
Malabu: Italian govt writes FG over Etete’s OPL 245
The Italian government has written to the Nigerian government seeking assistance in its investigation of acts of bribery committed by some of its public officials in foreign states bordering on the license for Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) owned by former minister of petroleum, Dan Etete.
In a letter with reference number Proc.n.54772/13RG.N.R. and dated June 19, 2015, the Italian government said it was requesting information on the events relating to the granting of the licence for oilfield OPL245 traced in a complaint presented to the public prosecutor at the Court of Milan by a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
The letter signed by the public prosecutor, Fabio De Pasquale, Antonio Pastore and Sergio Spadaro, which was obtained by LEADERSHIP yesterday, highlighted some of the allegations in the complaint lodged by the NGO to include the event of December 7, 2011, when an Italian company, ENI SpA, and the Anglo-Dutch company, Royal Dutch Shell, acquired the licence for OPL 245 in Nigeria for the sum of $1.1billion.
The letter noted: “ENI and Shell acquired 50% of the licence, and ENI is the operator. The owner of the licence was the Nigerian company, Malabu Oil and Gas, the property of Dan Etete, the former Nigerian minister of petroleum in the military government of Sani Abacha. This licence was the subject of dispute as Etete is alleged to have bought it illicitly and defrauded the government.”
The Italian government noted that proceedings on the matter are currently at the stage of the preliminary investigations during which the public prosecutor collects evidence for the prosecution.
“The prosecution believes that there was a conspiracy to make payment of bribes to Nigerian public officials following the ‘settlement agreement’ of 29 April, 2011, between the Nigerian government (FGN), the Nigerian company, Malabu Oil & Gas ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd (NAE), part of the ENI group and companies in the Shell Group (SNUD and SNEPCO)”, the prosecutor noted.
In requesting the information, the Italian government said, “The Nigerian authorities are urgently requested to acquire and transmit, for use in the criminal proceedings, all the banking information existing in Nigeria concerning the financial flows originated from the payment of the sum of $1,092,040,000 by ENI and thus identifying the final beneficiaries of the payment.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government is reportedly planning to retrieve OPL 245, following recommendation by the office of the director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mohammed Diri, to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the report, the panel set up by the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Mallami (SAN), had recommended that Shell and Eni be fined at least $6.5 billion (five times the $1.3 billion Shell and Eni originally paid in 2011 for the oil block) in accordance with the relevant provisions of the laws, in conformity with international best practices via the appropriate courts (at) home or abroad as the case may be.
The panel is said to have said that, from the fine and the amount to be retrieved of the $1.3 billion, the government could make about $8 billion which would help greatly in taking care of the 2016 budget deficit, apart from the money government will continue to make from taxes and royalties.
LEADERSHIP also gathered from sources at the office of the AGF that there are mounting pressures on government to return OPL 245 to its original owner, Malabu Oil and Gas, on the grounds that it would be in line with President Buhari’s policy on job creation.
It was also gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had completed its investigation in the matter and had written a comprehensive report, while the AGF, Malami, had also constituted a powerful team of lawyers in his ministry headed by the Solicitor General of the Federation and his DPP, Diri, to do justice to the matter.
It was also learnt that the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had directed his officers to arraign the beneficiaries of the proceeds of the crime in joint effort with some countries, including the Italian government, the United States, the Dutch government, the United Kingdom, Portugal and France in line with the legal mutual understanding already signed with these countries.