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Lawyers help criminals invest, conceal crime proceeds — NFIU

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Lawyers help criminals invest, conceal crime proceeds — NFIU

The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, Chief Operating Officer, Dr Emmanuel Shotande, has alleged that some lawyers help criminal-minded people to invest and conceal their clients’ proceeds of crimes.

“Unfortunately, why lawyers have a lot of responsibility because some of the lawyers help their clients to buy houses. Criminal-minded people come and invest or conceal their proceeds of crimes using lawyers to buy assets in real estate,” he said at the Nigerian Bar Association sensitization workshop for legal practitioners in Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.

The workshop which was themed: “Anti-money Laundering Guidelines: A Practical Approach for Legal Profession,” is aimed at building a productive relationship between the NBA and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in fighting corruption, terrorism financing, and other fraud-related matters.

Shotande also advised lawyers to be diligent in their dealings with politically exposed persons.

He also urged lawyers to be wary of helping politically exposed persons in concealing their crimes, while calling for collaboration between the NBA, NFIU, and the EFCC.

Shotande advised lawyers to report transactions above the stipulated threshold allowed by the law to the anti-graft agency.

He noted that for fruitful and effective collaboration, lawyers must be ready to engage with anti-money laundering agencies for clarification in suspicious dealing.

Speaking at the event, the NBA president, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), urged lawyers to observe the NBA anti-money laundering guidelines: rules of professional conduct 2023 in handling financial and money laundering matters.

Maikyau charged lawyers to stay at the forefront of fighting corruption in the country as their profession has uniquely bestowed the responsibility on them.

He said “Collaboration is the best way to go and we have identified certain gaps, in the discharge of our responsibilities under the law and so we took steps to incorporate the provisions to the guidelines assessment into the rules of professional conduct because lawyers are the ones that must take the lead in whatever is done in every society and that is simply because we are privileged to be the ones that have been instructed and taught the subject of law and these are all matters of law, so fighting corruption is a function of law, if you understand what the law says you shouldn’t do then you are able to avoid what the law says you shouldn’t do.

“Who is in a better place to guide and direct than the lawyers? So the lawyers will have to understand this law so that they can give direction and advance the cause of the law.

“There is also the implication in the angle of how this whole thing forces us as a nation. There is a cause for the nation to also pursue. The lawyers must be at the forefront of doing that so we have done that to demonstrate our responsibility, that we are cautious of this responsibility. We are prepared to self-regulate ourselves in terms of the process of fighting corruption. There is no better organ to do that collaboration with than those that are given that responsibility by law to fight corruption.”

Speaking on the guidelines, he explained that asking an individual lawyer what they are doing or having them report to the EFCC or the NFIU as an individual will impair the duty of confidentiality, which now impacts the right to a fair hearing.

On this note, adhering to the rules of professional conduct, the association resolved to set up the committee.

“The NBA anti-money laundering committee will interface with law enforcement agencies and members of the legal profession.

“Whatever law enforcement agents will require from any lawyer, it will be channelled through this committee and the obligations of lawyers will also be passed through that committee”.

The EFCC Chairman, Olanipekun Olukoyede, represented by EFCC Director SCUML, Daniel Isei, affirmed that the commission is committed to ensuring that the collaboration yields fighting fraud and corruption to a standstill in the country.

He said. “The framework of collaboration is an international requirement. International framework on money laundering issues calls for collaboration; no agency or body can do it alone.”

The anti-graft agency boss noted that the commission will engage in campaigns to enlighten Nigerians on the risks of financial crimes and other related matters.

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