Ribadu accuses French banks of keeping Nigeria's loot
From Tunde Oyedoyin, London
A MAJOR western power, France and some of her firms have been accused of aiding corruption in Nigeria.
Among others, France is alleged of harbouring stolen loot which corrupt Nigerian leaders and their accomplices siphoned from the country.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who levelled the allegations, did not spare other western nations which he also accused of frustrating the on-going war against graft in Nigeria for not being co-operative in the nation's attempt to recover her stolen fund.
The EFCC chief also disclosed that the country in the last couple of months had returned at least $750 million to foreign victims of Nigerian fraudsters, a.k.a. 419ers.
"I've personally taken some money back to Singapore, some to the United States (U.S.) and other countries," Ribadu told his audience.
Ribadu last Monday in London, at a media lunch held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Hall, venue of the Heart of Africa Project launch, also disclosed that three renowned Paris-based banks are being investigated.
In his speech replete with theatricals, Ribadu, who made his audience sat on their chairs' edge, stunned them with provoking revelations.
He made his audience gasp when he declared France as the residence of "the number one promoter of corruption in Africa," and also the "biggest money launderer in the world."
Ribadu, who, according to a police source, sometimes asks for their protection while staying and performing his duties in London, said: "There 're some French companies that we're investigating, maybe I shouldn't mention names, but the biggest money launderer in the world...." He paused for a moment, then continued: "I can tell you that the number one promoter of corruption in Africa lives in France and we've been trying to get him."
However, The Guardian asked him: "Is he a Nigerian or what?" Ribadu hesitated for a moment, then decided to conceal the identity of the person. It was, however, not total as the EFCC boss eventually revealed his nationality. "He's a Lebanese, I can just stop there."
Apparently not enjoying the best of co-operation from France, Ribadu lamented the frustration that his commission and the country is experiencing, saying, "but we cannot go there," adding: "We have a case of a Paris-based bank that is involved in what we consider perhaps the biggest loot," and "we're trying desperately to ask for support."
According to him, "the most annoying thing about this is that, there's no chance for us to win this war, if there's no safe haven for this stolen money and if they're not given protection from escaping justice. What these corrupt leaders are doing is to indirectly encourage others to do same. The reason why we had the Abachas (former Nigerian Head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha) was because the Mobutus (Sese Seko, former President of Congo) got away with what they did.
"This precedent paved the way for Nigerian leaders to walk the same route. Then the Abachas came. Abacha took over $6 billion from Nigeria. We recovered $2 billion. The rest is still hanging there outside and we're trying to get it."
Ribadu wants countries like France and Switzerland, who he alleged provide safe haven for these leaders to have a rethink, because "we may have more Abachas if there's a place where people can keep the money and are protected."
Speaking further in the company of both the Education Minister, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, Ribadu said: "These people use the same money to fight us back, because they have the means. If the money is back home in Nigeria, we'll seize it. We'll take control and they won't be able to use it."
He, however, paid glowing tributes to President Olusegun Obasanjo, for laying the ground rules for good governance and returning the country to a respectable position in international circles.
Ribadu, who a couple of days earlier, had been a guest speaker at an international conference organised by Transparency International in Guatemala, blamed the country's past leaders for not sending a clear message that there would be zero tolerance for corruption.
According to him, corruption is not synonymous with Nigeria, "a few Nigerians dragged us into this mess and our inability to do anything about it destroyed us as a nation."
He insisted that this was what was always blown out of proportion in the international media, while nobody cared to get the good out.
The EFCC boss mentioned two instances when he met with an American bank with a branch in Nigeria, asking if they had encountered incidents of fraud in the country.
He said he was shocked when this bank replied in the negative. A similar thing, he said, transpired in the case of Standard Chartered Bank, a British bank.
He, however, regretted that despite the testimonies of these banks and others, "Nigeria has suffered because of perception" and because of a little fraction of the citizenry who engaged in shady deals through e-mail scams.
"These fraudsters and corrupt leaders are not "a reflection of what Nigerians are," Ribadu told the receptive audience, many of who came just to listen to him.
Ribadu added that it was time to confine the past to where it belongs and that the country should now ensure that the era of leaders depleting the treasury never comes back.
Although he did not mention names, but Ribadu was given a standing ovation when he said, "we had a president who took billions, but we're bringing them to justice."
He also revealed that the EFCC is still hunting several others who looted the treasury. "There're several others we're going after and we won't let anything drag us back," he said.
November 28, 2006 in Current Affairs, France, Ivory Coast | Permalink
Le Mensonge peut courir un an, la vérité le rattrape en un jour, dit le sage Haoussa
se SURPASSER ,ne JAMAIS ABDIQUER,TOUJOURS RESTER HUMBLE