•’Domicilliary accounts not frozen’
The Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in charge of Financial System Surveillance (FSS) , Mr. Okechukwu Joseph Nnanna, yesterday said the apex bank may blacklist banks used for money laundering.
He also said management and directors of such banks will be in trouble.
Nnanna, who spoke with reporters in Abuja on the sideline of a workshop organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), said it would no longer be business as usual.
He said: “Any bank which we discover has been used, or manipulated by criminals who launder money, corrupt politicians who launder money, that bank and directors would be held accountable.
“Not only paying fines, we can also ask them to be blacklisted and will never work in the financial system any more. That is a very severe punishment.
“People who finance terrorists come in different guises; they may be genuine businessmen who after a while may turn to be criminals but what is important is for the banks to make sure that the customer who comes to deposit money and withdraw money, they must know who he is. Not only knowing who he is, they must know his or her business.”
Asked what CBN is doing to check money laundering, the Deputy Governor said the apex bank has put in place many control mechanisms.
He added: “At the CBN, we are doing a great deal. The bank has in fact put in place a regime of controls particularly for commercial banks. Know Your Customers (KYC) is a very serious affair with us.
“ You don’t go to the bank and open an account and go and lodge in N5 million, N10 million without you being reported to the NFIU and to the EFCC. You will be reported to explain the source of that money.
“We are not saying that Nigerians are all criminals. If you are a genuine businessman and you lodge in N1 billion there is nothing wrong with that but if you have N5000 and all of a sudden, you brought N10 million, we would like to know.
“The CBN in collaboration with the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) would like to know the source of that money and that we are doing very religiously.”
Responding to a question on what the government has lost to money laundering, he said: “Nigeria as a government hasn’t lost money so to say. But it is actually the businessmen and particularly foreigners through 419 scams, and the amount is really indeterminate.
“If I give you a number, I think that would be very misleading; I think NFIU would be in a position to give you such number.”
On the looted funds in CBN, the Deputy Governor was not forthcoming on the actual amount.
He said: “The president said so, and I am not qualified to contradict him. I wasn’t told that amount of money. If I tell you the figure, I would be lying. The Central Bank of Nigeria is the banker to the government so if the government recovers such money, where will it go? It will go to the CBN.
“You are the one saying it is there but I am not disputing that. What I am saying is that the Central Bank of Nigeria is the banker to the government. We keep dropping money, all money.”
Nnanna denied that the CBN deliberately frozen domiciliary accounts of innocent Nigerians.
He added: “We didn’t freeze them, they were not frozen. And let me use this opportunity to explain what domiciliary account is all about. Domiciliary account does not mean Nigerians in Nigeria, living in Nigeria using the Naira to buy dollars from the Bureau de Change operators or black market and substituting the Naira for dollars or pound sterling. That is not domiciliary account.
“Domiciliary account is when we live in foreign countries, like in the US, in the UK, South Africa, and you are working there, and you wan part of your money deposited in your country, then it would be through wire transfer.
“I took time to go to our banks during the height of domiciliary accounts. I found out that the queue for people who were depositing dollars and pound sterling was three times longer than the queue who were depositing Naira. What type of economy is that? That is not domiciliary accounts, that is called currency substitution which no country should tolerate; that is why we stopped it.
“The people who have their money in their accounts, it is still their money; the CBN did not seize it; it is still their money; you can go and withdraw it but you cannot deposit it anywhere.
If your bank says they don’t have the dollars, then you should ask them, what happened to the dollars you gave them. So we never told them not to pay back their customers.”