Foreign Currency

EFCC probes 1,146 frozen accounts for money laundering


In continuation of its crackdown on forex racketeers, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has pencilled for investigation, 1,146 bank accounts belonging to individuals and companies over alleged money laundering,  unauthorised dealing in foreign exchange and illegal naira manipulation.

The commission secured an interim order granted by Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, freezing the accounts.

Justice Nwite delivered the ruling on April 24, but our correspondent obtained the certified true copy of the interim order on Monday.

He delivered the ruling on an ex-parte motion moved by counsel for the anti-graft agency, Ekele Iheanacho and granted the commission’s application to conclude the investigation within 90 days.

The EFCC had told the court that the accounts were linked to persons taking advantage of crypto-currency to illegally manipulate the naira value.

Illegal forex accounts

In a move to curb the free fall of the naira against dollars and other foreign currencies, the commission had earlier frozen 300 illegal forex accounts trading on a peer-to-peer platform.

The EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, a few weeks ago revealed that the accounts were suspended last week Monday following a court order.

He explained that over $15bn passed through one of the forex platforms in the last year, outside the financial regulations, noting that the EFCC action was taken to ensure the safety of the foreign exchange market and protect the economy.

The agency had in February set up a 7000-man task force to go after forex speculators and racketeers.

The task force conducted several raids in Abuja, arresting currency traders suspected to be forex speculators.

It also arrested some perpetrators issuing invoices in dollars and mutilating the naira in Lagos and Rivers states.

As part of moves to strengthen the naira, the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission blocked the online platforms of Binance and other crypto firms to avert what it considered continuous manipulation of the forex market and illicit movement of funds.

The government also detained two senior executives of Binance, a crypto-currency exchange company.

Before the slew of fiscal measures and law enforcement actions launched by the government, the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun, had met with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso and the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, to proffer solutions to the naira crisis.

Speaking against the backdrop of the apex bank’s battle to stabilise the exchange rate amid dollar shortage when he appeared before the House of Representatives, Cardoso disclosed that Nigerians spent $98bn in 10 years on foreign education, healthcare and personal travels, which had impacted the naira.

He pointed out that the foreign exchange market was facing increased demand pressures, causing a continuous decline in the value of the naira.

According to him, factors contributing to this situation include speculative forex demand, inadequate forex due to low remittance of crude oil earnings to the CBN, increased capital outflows, and excess liquidity from fiscal activities.

To address exchange rate volatility, he said a comprehensive strategy had been initiated to enhance liquidity in the forex market.

This includes unifying FX market segments, clearing outstanding FX obligations, introducing new operational mechanisms for Bureau De Change operators, enforcing the Net Open Position limit for commercial banks, and adjusting the remunerable Standing Deposit Facility cap.

Delivering his ruling on the ex-parte application brought by the EFCC, Justice Nwite said, “It is hereby ordered as follows: That the applicant’s application is hereby granted as prayed.

Money laundering

“That an order of this honourable court is hereby made freezing the bank accounts stated in the schedule below which accounts are owned by various individuals who are currently being investigated in a case involving the offences of unauthorised dealing in foreign exchange, money laundering and terrorism financing to the extent that the investigation will be for a period of 90 days.”

The EFCC, in the motion ex-parte marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/543/2024 dated and filed April 24 by Iheanacho, was heard by the judge the same day in the national interest.

The motion was brought under section 44(2) and (K) of the 1999 Constitution; section 34 of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004; section 7(8) of the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

The agency had sought the order freezing the bank accounts stated in the schedule attached to the motion pending the conclusion of the investigation.

Giving three grounds upon which the reliefs were sought, it said: “The bank accounts in respect of which the reliefs are sought are subject matters of investigation by the EFCC about money laundering and terrorism financing.

“That preliminary investigation conducted thus far reveals that the bank accounts are linked to persons who take advantage of the virtual crypto-currency exchange platforms to illegally manipulate the value of naira and launder proceeds of unlawful activities.

“That there is a need to preserve the funds in the identified bank accounts pending the conclusion of the investigation and possible prosecution.”

Nwite consequently adjourned the matter until July 23 for mention.

Some of the account names mentioned in the attached schedule are Akitoye Adeyemi Ayomide with GTBank account number, 0165110025; Clyp Trading Ltd, Titan Trust Bank account number: 0000331101; Clyp Consulting Ltd, Providus account number: 9401374554 and Toyetech Platforms Ltd, Titan Trust Bank account number: 0000134962.

They also include Winx International Platforms Ltd with Titan Trust Bank account number: 0000135055; Shutterscore Trading Platforms Ltd, Access Bank account number: 1532363954; Tradecillion Trading Ltd, Stanbic IBTC account number: 0045672922 and Nsofor Nmamdi, GTBank account number: 0449088666.

They equally include Kora Payments Network Ltd-Operations, UBA account number: 1022242089; Renderstack Technologies Ltd, Zenith Bank account number: 1210355120; Korex Payments Ltd, Globus account number: 5000007837 and Awe Microfinance Bank Ltd, Providus account number: 5400760781 and Victor Asuquo, Opay Digital Services Ltd account number: 9020132068.

Others are Akingbade Juwon, ECOBank account number: 3442053006; Nsofor Donald Nmamdi, Union Bank account number: 0140460572; Asuquo Victor Samuel, First Bank account number: 3153199542; Oty Ugochukwu Stanley, FCMB account number: 4039304011.

Other accounts suspended are Oty & Sons Global Concepts, Fidelity Bank account number: 6060410145; Pelumi Ayandoye, Wema Bank account number: 0234852277; David George Ajala, Fidelity Bank account number: 5090680780, among others.

Before the latest development, Justice Nwite on March 18 ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide EFCC with comprehensive data or information on all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.

The judge granted the interim order on February 29 to enable the anti-graft agency to unravel the money laundering and terrorism financing probe against Binance.

The commission had told the judge that its investigation team uncovered users who had been using the platform for price discovery, confirmation and market manipulation which had caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the naira losing its values against other currencies.

It said information provided by Binance showed that the total trading volume from Nigeria in 2023 alone stood at $21.6bn.

While the EFCC is currently prosecuting Binance and two of its executives for alleged money laundering, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is prosecuting the company for tax evasion offences.

In a related development, the International Police Organisation on Monday revealed that its ‘Operation Africa Cyber Surge II’ across 25 African countries has resulted in the identification of 20,674 suspicious cyber networks and the arrest of 14 suspected cyber criminals.

20,674 cyber networks

The Director of INTERPOL’s Directorate of Cyber Crimes, Craig Jones, who spoke at the 10th Africa Working Group Meeting on Cyber Crimes for Heads of Units of member countries in Abuja, emphasised the organisation’s focus on combating various cyber threats.

Jones highlighted the effectiveness of INTERPOL’s regional approach and collaborative efforts in addressing cybercrime.

He stated, “The regional approach has proven to be effective and delivered many results so far including publication of the first Joint Operational Framework for Improving Coordinated Action against Cybercrime in the Africa Region, enhanced and optimized the use of INTERPOL’s Cyber Collaborative Platform for sharing operational and actionable data and information which is crucial as cybercrime units are often not within the NCBs, therefore the use of I-24/7 needs to be complemented via the CCP.

“The Africa Knowledge Exchange Workspace, with points of contact from respective cybercrime units connected to the Virtual Collaboration Platform, has been set up. This initiative allows collaboration and sharing of non-operations-related information.

“A prime illustration of this is Operation Africa Cyber Surge II across 25 African countries that enabled investigators to arrest 14 suspected cybercriminals and identify 20,674 suspicious cyber networks,” Jones noted.

At the event, the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, praised the Nigeria Police Force’s efforts in combating cybercrime, highlighting the establishment of the NPF National Cybercrime Centre and its collaboration with international partners like INTERPOL and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He noted, “The Nigeria Police Force has recorded a significant milestone in the fight against cybercrime through the establishment of the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre and the construction of a world-class Cybercrime Fusion Centre equipped with the most modern state-of-the-art forensic facilities.

“We have equally invested largely in capacity building and development of expertise in cybercrime investigation with the largest collection of globally certified cyber security experts and investigators in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We have successfully dismantled several notorious and hitherto evasive cybercrime syndicates and malicious networks in joint operations with INTERPOL Cybercrime Directorate, the FBI and other partners.”



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