Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Ibrahim Magu vowed yesterday that the agency would go after banks being used for the looting of the nation’s treasury and money laundering.
He asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop private banking in the country and pledged the determination of his team to give corruption a brutal fight.
Magu was reported by the agency’s in-house magazine, Alert, as telling Channels Television in an interview that the era was gone when treasury looters kept their money under the guise of private banking.
He said there was no more hiding place for banks to be used by corrupt public officials and fraudsters.
He said: “We are not only going after the personnel of banks, we are also going after the banks. What happens is that when a staff of the bank is involved in such activities, what the bank does is to take the person out of the system through dismissal.
“But now, we are going to go after the banks and the personnel used to perpetrate the fraud. It takes two to tango. In fact, very soon, you will see us going after the managing directors of the banks.
“We don’t care what happens because the right thing has to be done because they have given a lot of room for money laundering activities to thrive. They were used to hide all the stolen money.”
On private banking, he said the EFCC has advised the CBN to stop it in all banks.
“We had a discussion with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and I insisted that this so-called private banking should be stopped. It is illegal; it is wrong.”
On repatriation of stolen funds, the EFCC chairman said: “Of course, we are working with all the law enforcement agencies- the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the NCA, the Swiss Police and the Italians as well and many other people.
“There are requirements you must enter- the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) – with other countries. We are following the money and we will get them back very soon. But it has to be done within the law.
“There are procedures and they are really tedious. But there is an improvement because these countries are willing to issue warrant; they are willing to restrain any account we point out.
They are willing to also release the property we have traced to their countries. We are also helping them at this end.
“We are working with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and many countries are now ready to key in because they realize that fighting corruption is a very serious issue.”
Magu, who admitted that corruption has been fighting back at him, said he would fight the monster to the end with his team.
“Corruption is fighting back and some of the fighting back is coming from government officials. It is very serious, but I have fought corruption and corruption fought back. I am still fighting corruption.
“If it is my portion to lead the corruption fight particularly under President Muhammadu Buhari. I am fulfilled. We are ready to fight to the end. Somebody has to do it and I am happy we are making tremendous progress.”
Responding to a question, he said there is no sacred cow in the fight against corruption.
He said corrupt suspects will be arrested and prosecuted irrespective of political parties they belong to.
He said: “There is no sacred cow as far as this fight against corruption is concerned. We will go after anybody who has committed an offence. We will collect the money back so that it will go back to the treasury so that it can be used for the original purposes.
“I don’t care whether you are black or white or you come from Party A or Party B; the moment it can be established that you have stolen from the public treasury, we will go after you.
“Even right here (in EFCC), if we discover that you are corrupt, we will kick you out. And we are already doing that. So, we don’t go after innocent people. We are going after the thieves of state resources.”
On his reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s concurrence in London that Nigerians are fantastically corrupt, Magu said: “I won’t go beyond the reactions of Mr. President.”
He however said that London is the capital of money laundering.
He added: “I think it was most appropriate and you cannot shy away from being called corrupt because corruption has gone deep. The President’s reaction is ‘whatever it is, give me back what has been taken from us.’
“Of course, London is the capital of money laundering. Most of the stolen monies are hidden there either by way of property, banks or physical cash.
“I have an advantage of leading the EFCC now because what you need most when you are fighting corruption is the political will of the leadership.
“You will agree with me that Mr. President is not pretending about fighting corruption. You can see that it is in his blood. So, we are so lucky to have somebody who is committed, who supports us, who does not interfere with what we are doing and I mean that.
“It is good; you can see how we are moving. It is unprecedented.”
Regarding plea bargain, he said it is not a bad idea depending on the cooperation of accused persons who have stolen public funds.
He said: “I know plea bargain has a lot of issues, but if it is handled properly, it is not bad. If you happen to cooperate and you don’t give us too much problem and we sit down and look at what has been recovered from you, we can agree to entertain plea bargain.”
Magu insisted that the EFCC does not detain suspects illegally.
He said those who had met bail conditions were always allowed to go by the anti-graft commission.
“Nobody that has met the bail conditions is kept in the cell. We don’t do that. Honestly, it does not happen here. If we have any reason to keep somebody beyond the time allowed by law, we go to the court and obtain a remand warrant.
“But sometimes, when you arrest the suspect, on disclosure, you will get additional information from them. For instance, somebody who has stolen state funds to the time of $88m, you do not expect me to let him go like that.
“It is when you keep them that some of them will oblige and return the money and it is very important for us to get the money back.”