EFCC to Clampdown on Tax Evaders, Create Special Unit on Illicit Financial Flows

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  •  To launch anti-graft war in education sector  Global stakeholders converge on Abuja to tackle illicit flows

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja


The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, disclosed wednesday that the organisation was poised to clamp down on tax evaders as well as combat the menace of illicit financial flows by multinational companies operating in the country through the creation of a special unit in the anti-graft agency.

Magu said reports pointing to the activities of multinationals and their complicity in illicit financial flows had come to his attention, noting that the problem was disturbing and would be tackled headlong.

He spoke in an interview in Abuja on the sidelines of a global capacity building workshop on the “Use of Beneficial Ownership Information and the Recovery of Assets in Africa”.

The three-day event, organised in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and supported by the World Bank, is hosted by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Centre.

According to the World Bank/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report, Africa is estimated to lose more than $50 billion annually in illicit financial flows, stemming from bribery, corruption, transfer mispricing, tax evasion and money laundering.

The EFCC boss disclosed that reports on the activities of multinational operating in the country had reached him, and that his agency was determined to set up a special unit to combat the trend.

Magu’s admittance of the activities of multinationals came on the heels of a recent disclosure by the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Tunde Fowler that some multinationals in the country were neck-deep in illicit financial flows through transfer pricing, a development which he said, led to the creation of a special unit in the organisation to address the trend.

His words: “We are going to cooperate with FIRS and set up a unit that will exclusively deal with tax fraud, tax evasion and related offences. We are going to see that we work on this seriously.

“We intend to use that to see how we can bring succour to the economic recession in the country.

We have just discussed it with the FIRS Chairman. We will give the operatives a special training to operate very well.

“We will do everything possible to bring succour to the economy and chase out corruption to where they belong,” Magu assured.

He said the the fight against corruption was for all Nigerians, adding: “We want everybody to be part of it. It is not me alone. We are progressing and we (EFCC) are not alone. Corruption is the cause of this illicit financial flows and everybody must fight it.”

The EFCC, he also disclosed,  will soon turn its searchlight on the education sector.

 “We are already talking about universities. There is something on the ground to also reach out to the universities as students’ union leaders have disturbed me over issues in the sector. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) leadership visited me last week and this was part of their complaints. We assured them that we are going to join them and launch the anti-corruption war and we need them too because we are protecting their future,” he added.

In his opening remarks at the conference, the FIRS Chairman, Fowler said the African continent remains porous in terms of financial security, adding that tax evasion is a global problem and to succeed in Africa, given the economic challenges, stakeholders must join forces to plug  all leakages.

Also in an  an interview on the sidelines of the workshop, the Co-Director, Tax and Good Governance Project, Mr. Jeffrey Owens, said less than 15 per cent of Africa’s stolen assets had been recovered.

He stated that the problem of illicit financial flows is a global one and therefore a shared problem requiring  collaborative global approach.

The three-day conference drew participants from Austria, other European countries, Africa and Asia, to exchange views on beneficial ownership information.

Such information will help anti-graft agencies detect, track and prevent money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and other illicit financial flows, the organisers said.

According to the World Bank/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa report, the $50 billion lost annually in illicit financial flows stemming from bribery, corruption, transfer mispricing, tax evasion and money laundering represents more than what the continent receives in official development assistance every year, and is increasing at an annual rate of 9.4 per cent—roughly twice as fast as the global average gross national income.

The damage that these illicit financial flows inflict on Africa’s development and governance is enormous, the report noted.

Many of the flows end up being funneled through complex structures into opaque secrecy jurisdictions, drastically limiting the ability of law enforcement agencies and tax authorities to determine the identity of the natural person(s) with ultimate beneficial ownership and control over the illicit funds, and further reducing the likelihood of eventual asset recovery.

Against this background, the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business , in collaboration with the African Tax Institute (ATI) at the University Pretoria’s Faculty of Economic and  Management Sciences, has launched the Tax and Good Governance project aimed at assisting governments in stemming illicit financial flows through the combined actions of different stakeholders, including government, business and the academia.