Private Sector’s Role is Key in Fighting Money Laundering and Other Financial Crimes

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Abimbola Adeseyoju

The ecosystem for fighting financial crimes including money laundering, and terrorism financing consists of stakeholders notably, statutory and regulatory agencies, law enforcement agencies, reporting entities- financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions- as well as service providers. Global emerging trends show that regulators are now collaborating with the private sector in the areas of capacity development, support services, and compliance testing and auditing. Fellow, Compliance Institute Nigeria and Managing Director/ Founder, DataPro Limited, Mr. Abimbola Adeseyoju, speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on the trend in the international community bordering on enhancing effectiveness of the policies, procedures, programmes and processes that the reporting entities are supposed to put in place.

In the last two years, the financial sector had witnessed challenges over Nigeria’s mutual evaluation. 2018 was expected to have been a defining year. With a new helmsman at the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), what do you see as the future of the country’s meeting the mutual evaluation?
Despite all the challenges, if you understand what is going on in Nigeria when you think the world is going to end, we always find a way of surviving things. People thought the Financial Intelligence Unit was going to crumble in 2018 and that we are going to be finally expelled, but we’re able to manage it and at the end of the day we have a brand new Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit helmsman with the necessary administrative independence. There is going to be mutual evaluation of Nigeria by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the last quarter of 2019. There is a process towards that and everybody is putting things together to make sure that that happens. Lots of conferences and sensitisation programmes are needed in order to ensure that Nigeria performs well during the mutual evaluation. Nigeria becoming a member of the FAFT is directly tied to our performance during the mutual evaluation, so all hands have to be on deck. As a measure of our contribution, we have included modules on the mutual evaluation sensitisation in our training programmes.

What are the areas that you think stakeholders will be looking at, prior to the exercise?
Cooperation, collaboration and coordination and that’s coincidentally the recommendations we need to meet. We have 40 standards we must meet. A standard is that the entire law enforcement agency every participant, which involves regulators, supervisors, law enforcement agencies, the accountable institutions must cooperate amongst themselves, they must coordinate to be able to defeat the enemy which is the criminal. I want to see more cooperation.

What’s the ideal role of government in Nigeria meeting conditions for the mutual evaluation?
The ideal role is to provide the enabling environment for cooperation, collaboration and coordination of all the stakeholders so that we can put our best foot forward. There should also be massive sensitisation among all reporting entities; especially the designated non-financial institutions (DNFIs), which appear to be the weakest link in the value chain.

There has been an alleged misunderstanding between your firm and EFCC over nationwide awareness training programme on money laundering and terrorist financing, and sensitisation of all reporting institutions for the 2nd round of a mutual evaluation of the country in this year’s last quarter, involving DNFIs, themed: “Closing the AML/CFT Compliance Gaps among DNFIs in Nigeria”. What is the genesis?
We have become aware of a disclaimer published by EFCC disassociating itself from our earlier planned sensitisation workshop with the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) for the DNFIs scheduled for 6th & 7th of August, 2019 in Sokoto. It is quite unfortunate that all agreement and memorandum of understanding (MoU) we earlier had with SCUML through its erstwhile director, Mr. Francis Usani, were not properly communicated to the EFCC Chairman.
These patriotic and nationalistic efforts by us have now been given different colourations leading to the unfortunate disclaimer. For the record: DataPro is a well-known, reputable company that has never been involved in any form of unethical or unprofessional conduct in the course of its business.
As a responsible corporate citizen and a committed stakeholder within the AML/CFT compliance community, we have toiled and devoted the past 24 years to the promotion of a sustainable compliance culture in Nigeria, we will not engage in any press war with anybody let alone the EFCC knowing fully well our antecedents and the sacrifices we have made in the sector.
We will continue to do our work with the same passion and renewed commitment that we are noted for. This is an opportunity to thank all stakeholders for their understanding and to assure the Nigerian public and the international community of our unwavering determination to continue with what we are noted for, which is the provision of cutting-edge compliance.

What does it feel like your company being the pioneers of anti-money laundering, countering financial terrorism and compliance in Nigeria?
When we started in 1995, compliance was relatively new in Nigeria. But we were fortunate to be involved with a global brand called Dun and Bradstreet (D&B), which exposed us to the nuances of global efforts in combating money laundering and efforts of the Financial Action Task Force(FATF) as it relates to the customer due diligence/ enhanced due diligence, obligation of banks and other financial institutions. We started by offering enhanced due diligence reports for the 10 biggest correspondent banks in the world and other leading global brands in Europe and America.
We were helping the banks and financial institution in Europe, America and Nigeria to fulfill that concept of the KYC which involves the verification of customers before entering into business relationship.
It took us almost five years before we amended our business plan and that was when we started working for some of the embassies in Nigeria by offering business information and due diligence reports on Nigerian individuals and entities in order to mitigate the risk of people making claims and fictitious documentation to go on business trips . Because we were already working with a global brand and with the level of professionalism, we were invited to help and that also gave us a lot of leverage.

In what way is your firm helping Nigerian banks to bridge the gaps of infrastructure?
Every day, banks are trying to overcome those challenges and that’s why with our own experience knowing fully well that those deficiencies exist, we’ve been able to provide some value added services that help the banks towards compliance. We’re able to provide the most recognised PEP list which is the most comprehensive political list in Nigeria. It took us almost 10 years to build because we know that with that, the banks will be able to focus on their core functions.
For over 12 years, as the first company to spearhead address verification for banks and developed same into a mobile application, we’ve been able to offer those value added services, thus closing these gaps. The mobile app is used when our people go to do address verification. They use their phone to capture GPS, photographs and it gives a lot of detailed information. Our apps address all financial institutions. It helps them to conduct that know-your-customer (KYC). That pioneer status has helped us come up with more innovative service basically to support the compliance regime in Nigeria.
And also with leveraging on the experience we’ve gathered over the years we’ve also been able to meet the needed certification for training. We are the first trainer to be certified by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria. We have a compliance academy armed with facilitators, so we do training round the year and now as open house. We’ve been able to contribute to the development of skills and knowledge within the sector because we’re able to domesticate a lot of those practices and so we’ve given the needed solutions. We’ve also partnered with a lot of software companies to be able to support the banks in automation of a lot of those processes and procedure so that they can be more effective and the results can be better.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your training programmes?
We are the biggest in the industry. We’ve been able to introduce innovations, and a very strong after-programme services so our training programmes do not end with the delivery of the training itself. We’ve been able to provide value added services that when people attend our courses, they’ve joined our community of knowledge. Our participants are put in a discussion groups in which every day they get alerts, messages we give them case to keep them on their toes on trends and experiences. Industry stakeholders know we’ve been able to distinguish ourselves. We use a lot of teaching aids, movies, case studies, discussion groups to be able to bring home some of those things and we are always abreast in terms of trends and pattern. We are very proactive and can easily understand the direction of new regulations with a view to quickly responding.