By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Worried by the fact that Africa loses approximately $50 billion annually to various financial crimes, an International conference and capacity building workshop on the use of beneficial ownership information and the recovery of assets in Africa hosted by the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence.
The conference which is billed for the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria from April 26 to 28, will have Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu (Special Adviser on Economic Matters to the President of Nigeria); Mr. Tunde Fowler (Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service); Mr Francis Oka-Phillips Usani (Head of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit); Mr Jeffrey Owens (Project Co-Director, Tax and Good Governance Project; former Head of Tax at the OECD); Mr Rick McDonell (Project Co-Director, Tax and Good Governance Project; former Executive Secretary of the Financial Action Task Force) as speakers.
“Africa is estimated to lose more than US$50 billion annually in illicit financial flows stemming from bribery, corruption, transfer mispricing, tax evasion and money laundering. This figure represents more than the continent receives in official development assistance every year, and is increasing at an annual rate of 9.4%—roughly twice as fast as the global average gross national income.
“International conference and capacity building workshop on the use of beneficial ownership information and the recovery of assets in Africa hosted by the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Centre,” a statement from the EFCC said.
It explained that the damage that is inflicted on Africa’s development and governance by these illicit financial flows is immense.
“They drain resources and reduce government tax revenues, eroding the tax base that could otherwise be used for public investment and social spending. They also reduce productivity gains by exacerbating inequality, impeding private sector development, and encouraging rent seeking.
“Many of these illicit financial flows end up being funnelled through complex financial structures into opaque secrecy jurisdictions, drastically limiting the ability of law enforcement agencies and tax authorities to determine the identity of the natural person(s) with ultimate beneficial ownership and control over the illicit funds, and further reducing the likelihood of eventual asset recovery,” it added.
Against this background, the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business in collaboration with the African Tax Institute (ATI) at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, has launched the Tax and Good Governance project aimed at assisting governments in stemming illicit financial flows through the combined actions of different stakeholders including government, business, and academia.
This conference, which is co-organized with the NFIU, FIRS, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank Group, will specifically examine two related issues: it will provide a platform for the exchange of views regarding the importance of beneficial ownership information in detecting, tracking and preventing money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and other types of illicit financial flows; and it will examine processes and procedures for the recovery of assets, its role in curbing illicit financial flows, and how existing practices can be made more effective and efficient.
By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja