Friday, 25 March 2016

BVN: Money Launderers Abandon N2.6trn In Banks

The Bank Verification Number (BVN) introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to link individuals to their various bank accounts has led to a whopping N2.6 trillion being trapped in various banks across the country, it has been gathered.

Owners of these accounts, it is said, failed to make claims to the said sum by refusing to link their BVN to the accounts for fear of being labeled money launderers.

With the institution of BVN, no bank customer can withdraw money from an account unless it is linked with the number, which synchronizes the customer’s different accounts.

“If you have 10 accounts in different banks it will be linked to you and the CBN will have a clear summary of all the money you have,” said a bank manager in a first generation bank.

As a result of the measure, no less than N2.6 trillion is said to have been trapped in banks with owners refusing to pick them up without flagging enquiries on how they made the monies.

Findings reveal that the BVN has also facilitated a reduction on illegal trading in forex by Bureau de Change (BDC) operators. Before now, BDCs submit bogus lists of buyers of forex from account owners. But with BVN, the list could be vetted upon comparing accounts thus putting faces on applications for forex.

It was long suspected by the Federal Government and the monetary authorities that a good chunk of federal allocations to states, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) find their way into Wuse and other forex exchange hubs in Lagos and other states.

“It’s the first port of call for those willing to exchange looted money into dollar, pounds and euros in their onward transfer to offshore accounts and private pockets,” explained a senior operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

At the fore of the surreptitious transactions are bankers and registered BDC operators who freight forex to the black market in the hitherto rampant financial malfeasance otherwise called ‘round tripping.’

“Taking the black market out of play is reducing transfer of illicit funds significantly,” explained the EFCC operative. It would be recalled that there was a major altercation between Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Nenadi Usman, both then serving ministers in the finance ministry under former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the one hand and state governors on the other.

The ministers had drawn the public’s attention to flurry of activities in the black market whenever federal allocations reach the states.

Bismark Rewane, CEO, Financial Derivatives, also linked bankers and officials in the apex bank to this economy-crippling racket.

But with the new measures and going by the scenario being painted in the anguish of the forex dealers, those in the habit of using the black market as conduit for looting public funds appear to be the first causalities.

Last year, the CBN had said that any bank customer without the BVN would from November 1, 2015 be deemed to have inadequate know your customer (KYC) information.

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