Panic As ICPC Launches Probe Into Real Estate Sector Over Unlawful Cash Flow

The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) announced that it has begun an inquiry into hundreds of real estate properties throughout the Federal Capital Territory, alleging unlawful cash flows.

Adedayo Kayode, the ICPC’s Director of Asset Tracing, Recovery, and Management, announced this on Monday, 11 April, at an event in Abuja on ‘Illicit Financial Flow in Real Estate.’

He said, “The ICPC in accordance with its mandate to curb corruption is presently investigating cases of myriad of completed but abandoned estates scattered around the Federal Capital Territory with the intention of identifying those instruments of IFFs.

“We are collaborating with the National Assembly, to investigate, study and promulgate appropriate legislation to stem the tide of corruption in the real estate sector.

Kayode stated that the commission has been working hard to recover assets both domestically and overseas, The Whistler reports.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s housing shortage was estimated to be over 17 million units in 2012.

Filling the void, he claims, has made the real estate business profitable. It has also encouraged illegal financial flows.

Some real estate investors, he claimed, were concealing illegal cash flows in the industry.

Kayode explained that even when money is received genuinely but transmitted through IFF, the deal to which the money was applied becomes illegal.

He said, “The hubs of real estate development in Nigeria are Lagos, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt which Abuja is perceived to have the greater number of real estate development and higher property value. I am sure that this may be because Abuja is the seat of power.

“Because of the housing deficit and the boom that we are experiencing, in the housing industry, people see it as a very good opportunity to invest their illicit fund.”

The director said most of the suspicious deals done in the real estate sector are carried out in cash and funded by Bureau de Change operators.

“Most of the time, most of these people don’t pass the money through the financial system, what they do is to go to the bureau de Change to buy dollars and then pay in dollars.

“Oftentimes also, after purchasing, the property titles are not changed to reflect the new ownership. So, even at the land registry, the registration of the property is still in the name of the original owner and the land and property must have changed hands many times.”

According to him, on the global stage, Dubai is the global headquarters of illicit financial flows due to its weak laws that conceal the identities of money launders and illicit entrepreneurs.

He further revealed that Nigerians are among the top actors that own real estate in Dubai.

The ICPC director said, “Countries whose citizens are leading among Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and illicit actors that own real estate in Dubai are Armenia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, and Thailand.

“We need a coordinated and concerted approach to fight IFFs. The effort of the government in the recent SIM card/NIN matching and deactivation of non-compliance is a good step in the right direction.”