Do you own property in the UK classified as off the records? You should read this and panic!

Nearly one year ago, former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was caught on camera describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt countries”.

It was the eve of a major anti-corruption conference in London.

At that conference, President Muhammadu Buhari said his concern was for the United Kingdom (UK) to return all stolen funds that Nigerians have in some UK bank accounts.

One year down the line the Nigerian government has continued to push for the repatriation of these funds. Now attention is shifting to property owned by Nigerians in the UK.

A breakthrough seems to be coming from the push, as the British Government is making plans to give Nigeria information about Nigerians who own secret luxurious property.

The Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Professor Bolaji Owosanoye, told reporters in New York that negotiations on this have reached an advanced stage.

Professor Owosanoye said the measure being taken by the governments of both countries was a step to tackle corrupt practices.

“There’s no doubt that rogues in government oppress and impoverish their people by corruption and this must be sanctioned by collective action.

“We need to make sure that there is no safe-haven for you (corrupt officials) to run to.

“Britain has promised that by 2018, she will provide Nigeria with the information about who owns what and where; that’s very helpful.

“These include all the houses that have been bought by public officials or accounts that are held by public officials on which they are right now not paying taxes or which they cannot explain the sources.

“So if you cannot buy a house in England, you have to look for somewhere else.

“But if all countries criminalise this, then it becomes much more difficult unless you want to buy the house on Mars,” he said.

Block Illicit Financial Flows

The presidential aide also explained that Nigeria and other African countries, who were victims of illicit financial flows, must demand that developed countries block illicit financial flows from developing countries.

“Receiving states – the countries of the North – need to be proactive to block the proceeds of crime even before a request is made by victim countries.

“This is because, in many situations, it is clear that illegality is taking place.

“We think that reversing the burden of proof to improve the confiscation of criminal proceeds of crime would help, especially when we are going after the asset and not necessarily the person.

“If the person who claims to own the asset would not cooperate in giving information, then this should be a point in favour of the state,” Owosanoye said.

He contended that the burden of proof for criminal proceeds should shift to the suspect and not the government.

“A former Managing Director of the NNPC was found with nine million dollars cash and over 70 million Naira in his house in a small place he has built.

“He said the money is a gift. He was asked if he could tell the very generous angels who gave him this money.

“He’s not been able to provide that information. That sort of disposition should be used to penalise a claimant of asset who cannot justify the origin of the asset.

“The proposed “Unexplained Wealth Order in England,” which hopefully we were told would pass through the legal process this year, should really help to deepen the conversation in this regard.

“It (Unexplained Wealth Order) would help to quickly recover assets,” the presidential aide said.

The News Agency of Nigeria further quoted him as saying that available research records showed that about 60 per cent of capital flight from Africa came from Nigeria because of the size of its economy.