No more hiding place in the UK for African officials and their stolen wealth

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 May 2016

David Cameron speaks about corruption in Nigeria

Less than a day after British prime minister David Cameron referred to Nigeria as a “fantastically corrupt” country, president Buhari of Nigeria has hit back, calling for the UK to repatriate all stolen assets and wealth hidden by corrupt Nigerians in UK institutions.

Speaking to Her Majesty the Queen on her 90th birthday celebrations about Britain’s plans to host a global Anti-Corruption Summit in London, prime minister Cameron (Photo) said:  “We have got the Nigerians – actually we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain……Nigeria and Afghanistan – possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Today, Nigerian president Buhari decided to rise above David Cameron’s remarks. Rather than go on the defensive, he challenged the British government to return Nigeria’s stolen wealth hidden in British institutions.

Asked by Sky News’ diplomatic editor – Dominic Waghorn, whether his country was corrupt, Buhari answered: “Yes.”

Speaking at a press conference held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London this morning, the Nigerian leader said that his government has a zero tolerance policy against corruption, and that he is doing his best to tackle the scourge in Nigeria – one of Africa’s largest economies.

Buhari speaks in London about corruptionAsked whether he would demand an apology from the British prime minister for his remarks, Buhari (Photo) said: “I am not going to demand any apology from anybody,” to cheers from Nigerian delegates in the audience. “What would I do with an apology?” he added.

Buhari described corruption as a “hydra-headed monster”, threatening the security of countries and “does not differentiate between developed and developing countries”.

Nigeria was ranked 136 out of 167 countries in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. But Transparency International’s managing director – Cobus de Swardt, said that the UK is “a big part of the world’s corruption problem”.

“There is no doubt that historically, Nigeria and Afghanistan have had very high levels of corruption, and that continues to this day,” de Swardt said.

“But the leaders of those countries have sent strong signals that they want things to change. This affects the UK as much as other countries. We should not forget that by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its overseas territories and crown dependencies are a big part of the world’s corruption problem,” says de Swardt.

grand corruption in africaSpeaking to the BBC earlier today, president Buhari confirmed that what his new government found when it came to power, proved prime minister Cameron was right. “He was telling the truth. He was talking about what he knew,” Mr Buhari said.

Last week, Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said that an estimated $15bn (£10bn) of government money had been stolen through corrupt arms contracts under the previous government.

And in March, an official audit found that Nigeria’s state-owned oil company had failed to pay the government $25bn in a suspected fraud.

In a stinging letter to Cameron last month, 95 reform groups in Nigeria urged the UK to do more to prevent corrupt officials from laundering stolen money through the UK’s property market.

London expensive homes“Civil society in Nigeria is calling on you to take serious action to end the UK’s role as a safe haven for our corrupt individuals, who steal our wealth for their own private gain,” the letter said.

The UK government will host world and business leaders at the summit on Thursday in London, aiming to “galvanise a global response to tackle corruption”.

Speaking ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit taking place in London this week, Mr Cameron said: “For too long there has been a taboo about tackling this issue head-on.

“The summit will change that. Together we will push the fight against corruption to the top of the international agenda where it belongs.”

But the problem of corruption and money laundering in the UK by corrupt African officials is not limited to Nigeria alone.

president koroma off to washington - April 2015As president Koroma of Sierra Leone stays away from the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, the Sierra Leone Telegraph has seen a list, containing the names of six top officials in the Koroma government, alleged to be laundering millions of pounds in UK banks and investment institutions.

Some of the officials listed are said to be using the bank accounts of their spouses and other family members who are registered as ordinarily resident in the UK or are citizens of the UK, to launder their stolen wealth.

It is also alleged that several of the Sierra Leonean government officials, including at least two cabinet ministers and the president himself, own properties valued at millions of pounds in London that are being looked after by family members.

As the managing director of Transparency International – Cobus de Swardt said; ” ……by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its overseas territories and crown dependencies are a big part of the world’s corruption problem.”

But in Sierra Leone, despite the country’s Anti-Corruption laws requiring all public officials, including the president to declare their earnings and assets every year, just a handful of cabinet ministers have even bothered to declare their assets in accordance with the law.

Over 70% of public officials are said to be failing to declare their assets, including president Koroma, who is believed to have net assets worth over 200 million dollars, accumulated in just nine years in office.

Critics of the government say that the problem of asset declaration in Sierra Leone is more than form filling.

“It is about the lack of transparency and probity. No one in Sierra Leone can prove that the president and his ministers are declaring their assets annually, let alone audit the figures they say they put on the forms they provide.”

Sierra Leone is one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, and among the poorest in the world.

3 Comments

  1. At last a major power – Britain – has a shown a willingness to fight official corruption around the world. My concentration is on Africa.

    The continent has always been criticised for corruption, and it is given as a major hinderance to overall development since much of the wealth of a nation gets spirited away to foreign lands , especially the developed, capitalist ones, for huge returns. It has been the post independence norm.

    But this has not been lost to the big powers like Britain and the United States as well as all members of the European Union. They collectively keep quiet because incoming assets are a boost to their respective economies. These nations have intelligence services which know the assets of foreign nationals like their own name.

    I have always felt that if a nation like Britain gets serious about helping poor countries like Sierra Leone in stemming corruption it can by ensuring that MI5 , the British intelligence agency, work in tandem with all British financial institution to discern shady inflow of assets from the continent and not only expose the illegitimate ones, but help to return them to the governments of the countries of origin. With no place to hide their assets, African thieves will be exposed forthwith.

    President Buari’s reply to the British Prime Minister could not be more telling and should cause him and the British people some embarassment. I think it was during the Buari/Idiagbon era as military leaders that Umaru Diko was nearly taken back to Nigeria secretly by Nigerian intelligence officers to answer to charges of corruption. It was at the point of loading the crate containing him at Stanstead airport that British agents caught up with them. Next time a similar effort is made please do not hinder it David Cameroon. Thank you.

  2. For decades western Banks and financial institutions had served as safe havens for ill-gotten wealth of African leaders, government authorities and their cohorts. Monies plundered from African state coffers are laundered in Western banks and financial institutions with bliss, as the laws in these countries allowed legal coverage to this practice.
    Even African larders like SIAKA STEVENS of Sierra Leone who was an ally of the communist block had entrusted Western banks to keep safe his ill-gotten wealth from tax payer’s money and the resources of the country with them. Our President; Ernest Koroma has also followed the steps of his political mentor, Siaka Stevens with a huge stolen fortune in the UK.
    Paradoxically, Western governments on the other hand, pretend to bail African nations out of poverty and bad governance, while this practice is accepted as an operative financial tool in their system.
    Monies injected into African countries for development purposes are hardly used for that purpose and cross-check controls are hardly put in place by donors and creditors. This is one of the breeding grounds for our corrupt politicians to make their field day. It is a sort of merry-go-rounds; the money finds itself back into Western banks.
    The African populace continues to sink down the seabed of poverty, and the masses are impoverished to misery, by bad governance and corrupt government authorities.
    However, if sound human reasoning is to come by, with willingness to put an end to this practice, Africans and the world at large do welcome the move. Especially for Britain with whom Sierra Leone is a strong ally now a days, would do us a great favor if the UK would consider Sierra Leone recovering the stolen-gotten wealth of our politicians, government officials and cohorts, deposited in British banks and financial institutions.
    So, Prime Minister Cameron, we are looking forward to your kind service to humanity.

  3. With the exception of Head of State Cpt. Valentine Strasser of NPRC, the following 5 Leaders of Sierra Leone, including Papa Sheki, JS Momoh, Tejan Kabbah, Ernest Koroma and Victor Foe, have one thing in common: They are all “Drs.” despite lacking a real doctorate degree with matriculation, residence, study and the passing of examinations. Wow!

    These honorary degree or honoris causa recipients have become too often deliberate obstructionists to those who truly possess it. For men like Dr. Abass C. Bundu, who has very distinguished credentials as “first” Executive Secretary General of ECOWAS and a renowned “expert” on Constitutional and International Law, have tried in the past to lead Sierra Leone forward, but failed woefully to do so at the ballot box. All because of cruelty and ‘bad heartism.’

    But, look at where we are today as a nation heavily bolted in all kinds of corrupt practices, with mascots as gorboys rejoicing deceptively. What a shame!

    Can Sierra Leone’s 56 year old Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, who was the former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General For Sustainable Energy, succeed in the upcoming presidential elections slated for in 2018? I doubt it.

    May the Lord God Almighty help the people of Sierra Leone, this time around, to know Him as their personal savior and be able to leap out of abject poverty. Amen.

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