Connect with us

Markets

Exposing Nigerian Looters’ Assets in The UK

Published

on

A money changer holds Turkish lira banknotes next to U
  • Exposing Nigerian Looters’ Assets in The UK

Many countries across the world are safe havens for corrupt Nigerian public officials and white-collar crooks. The United Kingdom, arguably the leading culprit, has taken a bold initiative to redeem itself. When the plan is consummated through a pending legislative mechanism, bank accounts, properties and other assets that fail the legitimacy test will be confiscated and exposed. The drive, which will assist Nigeria in its anti-corruption battle, surely is a game-changer. Nations need to work together on mutual legal assistance and extradition in corruption cases to recover looted funds and bring fugitives to justice.

There’s much reason to cheer the initiative. The Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Bolaji Owasanoye, who hinted of this recently in New York, the United States, said the new offensive will be launched using the UK’s “Unexplained Wealth Order Bill.’’ The Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the deal that is expected to come into effect in 2018. “There is going to be much better cooperation from the international community. The British government under the beneficiary ownership register, which was signed with David Cameron before he left, is going to give us the list of everyone (Nigerians) that owns property in the United Kingdom.” The loophole in the UK’s law, which prohibits the seizure of questionable properties unless their owners have first been convicted in their countries of origin, will eventually be closed.

Undoubtedly, the move is a logical corollary to the UK’s resolve to push for a global consensus against the corruption epidemic, for which it hosted a summit last December. The UK Labour Party Shadow Secretary for International Development, Diane Abbott, had last year accused the government of not taking real measures “to close Britain’s constellation of tax havens, which constitute the largest financial secrecy network in the world.” All true, of course. It is estimated that about $60 billion illicit money goes out of Africa annually. After the summit, the UK government emphasised that there would be nowhere for looters to hide; and those involved would be pursued and punished. “By sending a clear message to the corrupt, there will be no impunity; we will restrict their ability to operate in our countries,” read the message.

Though we are not deceived by such syrupy diplomatese, the UK government has clearly shown that some Western countries bear the moral burden of Africa’s underdevelopment. Britain as one of the global capitals of ill-gotten wealth, indeed, gives itself out as the place that harbours much of the $150 billion, which President Muhammadu Buhari said was siphoned from Nigeria in the 10 years to 2015. Besides the cash in secret bank accounts, funds have been heavily invested in the UK’s lucrative mortgage sector. A study by an African Union panel headed by Thabo Mbeki in 2014 affirmed that out of $60 billion of illicit capital flight out of the continent annually, $40 billion came from Nigeria. The claim is further strengthened by Global Financial Integrity, a US-based group, finding that $182 billion was stolen from Nigeria between 2000 and 2009. Indeed, corruption stifled the real sector and smaller businesses and blocked foreign investment outside the oil and gas sector.

Nigeria should do more than just wait for the UK to tidy up its environment to our advantage. The Mutual Legal Assistance agreement entered into by the two nations, a protocol it also shares with Switzerland and, recently, the United Arab Emirates, among others, is a veritable weapon that could be used to get our stolen funds returned and rein in the looters. Switzerland has done more than other countries in Europe on funds recovery with the $722 million of Sani Abacha loot it returned in 2005 and a promise to surrender the balance of $321 million. The sanitisation of its legal environment is no less critical.The country’s erstwhile Ambassador to Nigeria, Hans Rudolf Hodel, once said, “…But now, before you deposit money in any Swiss bank, you have to prove that you have earned that money legally.”

If the UK gets it right with the proposal for wealth within the threshold of £100,000 to be justified, it would have been a watershed in using international efforts to tame the urge to siphon public funds from Nigeria to offshore accounts.

An Investment Property Forum research 2016 put the value of the UK’s commercial property whether occupied or held as an investment at £871 billion, while those held as investment rose to £483 billion. However, reports indicate that Nigerians, who may have been rattled by the UK action, are desperate to sell their questionable properties there to escape the eventual scrutiny and justice. The authorities should forestall this.

Apart from the UK, the US, France, Luxembourg, Panama, Liechtenstein and Island of Jersey are the other safe havens for Nigeria’s corrupt public officials. Some $550 million of the Abacha loot reportedly remains in these countries, while the Federal Government has been negotiating its release.

Strategies in the anti-graft war are changing globally. That is what the UK has demonstrated with the proposed law, which shifts the burden of proof on the accused, rather than the old canon of the accused being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Singapore, once a corruption haven, shunned this Western paradigm in its anti-graft prosecutions, and adopted the “prove your wealth” model. This explains why it is now ranked seventh in the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, compared to Nigeria’s dismal 136th. Indonesia too is making progress with this system.

But our anti-graft agencies are not exploring existing foreign assistance enough. There are the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977 and the UK Bribery Act 2010 that both prohibit the bribing of international companies and foreign officials and substantially encourage whistle-blowers to expose any fraudulent activity involving offshore companies. Nigeria has to key into this new grid. Ultimately, the anti-corruption battle can only work with a strong political will to fight it, a robust and total anti-graft framework and a society that abhors corruption.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Published

on

Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

Continue Reading

Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Published

on

Crude oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

Continue Reading

Crude Oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Published

on

oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

Continue Reading

Trending