The U.S. government has said a lesson it learnt in the last 10 years in the efforts geared toward fighting corruption and money laundering is that “criminals are getting better and better at hiding their assets and hiding their crimes.”
This is as its Department of Justice has, through the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) programs on Crime and Corruption across Africa, restrained more than $3.2 billion in assets that were linked to corruption in the last one decade.
This year alone, over $200m of illicit funds has been returned to their “appropriate jurisdictions,” according to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Heather Merritt.
“What we have learned over the years is that criminals are getting better and better at hiding their assets and hiding their crimes. So these cases are very time consuming and they take a lot of coordination across jurisdictions,” said Merritt in telephone interview on Thursday.
The Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) which the United States co-hosted along with the U.K. in December, 2017, she noted, ultimately helped to advance several ongoing asset recovery cases including some big ones that affected Nigeria.
The U.S. said it is really committed to recovering public assets stolen by corrupt officials that were stashed abroad and is proud to be a global leader on this issue.
“We really facilitate the cooperation amongst the foreign partners and INL helps to support the asset recovery efforts through capacity building for partner nations like Nigeria, like Kenya,” she said.
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, recently said 60 percent of looted funds is still hidden in Nigeriaas part of the sophistication of the looters Merritt referred to.
This also followed the discovery of various sums of money in different currencies on private properties in recent time.
Fight against corruption and looting of public funds has been a major plank of the Nigerian government and majority of the nation’s over 200 million population also believe that misappropriation and diversion of public assets are responsible for the wobbling economy and decayed infrastructure.