By Ibrahim Umar
Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s senate president, is one of influential persons that may lose their properties to the British Government based on the promulgation of a new Criminal Finances Law. Saraki, who is facing a charge of false asset declaration, is said to own a property in Belgravia in his own name.
Recently, leaks from the Panama Papers had revealed Saraki owned another property, valued at £5.7m, and registered in BVI companies’ name. The paper shows the companies being purportedly owned by Saraki’s wife, Toyin, and a former special assistant.
The criminal finances bill is designed to allow British authorities power to seize property from overseas criminals. Unlike the old law, such forfeiture can only take place where the affected individuals are first convicted in their country of origin. The new law is equipped with the concept of “unexplained wealth orders”, which will also help expose the owners of properties.
In its report, British-owned Guardian says ‘hundreds of British properties suspected of belonging to corrupt politicians, tax evaders and criminals could be seized by enforcement agencies under tough new laws designed to tackle London’s reputation as a haven for dirty money’.
It is believed that ‘up to £100bn of tainted cash could be passing through the UK each year, with much of it being splurged on buying properties and other assets such as luxury cars, art and jewellery.
Ben Wallace, British security minister, said: “We will not stand by and watch criminals use the UK to launder their dirty money or fund terrorism.
“This legislation will ensure the UK is taking a world-leading role in cracking down on corruption and send a clear message to criminals – we will take your liberty and your money.”
Similarly, Robert Barrington, director of Transparency International, says: “We simply cannot continue to roll out the red carpet to the world’s corrupt elite wanting to lodge their illicit wealth in the UK.
“The UK has a responsibility to ensure that any stolen wealth flowing into the country is stopped, frozen, and ultimately returned to the people from whom it was stolen.”