Corruption in real estate, group explains how to curb it

The Society for Professional Valuation, (SPV) has called on Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies to upscale efforts in the fight against money laundering by developing more interest on how real estate capital are managed to promote transparency in the industry.

The World Economic Forum reports that globally, the cost of corruption is at least $2.6 trillion, or five percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), meaning that no country, region, or community is immune to the negative impact of unethical behavior. More than 80 percent of proceeds of corruption find their safe nest in real estate.

According to experts, money laundering take several forms and could be categorised into the structuring/smurfing of cash into smaller deposits often used to defeat suspicion, bulk cash smuggling to another jurisdiction and depositing such cash in offshore bank, with greater bank secrecy or less rigorous money laundering enforcement.
Also, it could take the form of under/over-valuing invoices to disguise the movement of money and legitimate business typically expected to receive a large revenue proportion as cash and uses its accounts to deposit illicit / criminally derived cash.

The Chairman, Board of Trustee, Olusola Enitan made the call while speaking with newsmen to mark United Nations global anti-corruption day in Lagos. He noted that for any country to grow economically, the fight against money laundering must be thorough, as the social menace affects sustainability of the nation’s economy.He disclosed that the effects of this scourge on growth among others include, loss of economic policy, erosion of financial institution systems, weakening of the financial sectors and evasion of tax.

To reduce corruption in the industry, he alluded that there was need for pre- and post-construction development appraisal to clear issues of over and under invoicing and that procurement officer of private and public institutions ought to be held accountable through professional certification and strict ethical conduct.“Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), should work concertedly with global agencies like Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), MI5&6, to report the suspicious movement of funds in account suspected of belonging to Nigerians across globe and all suspicious transaction be reported to the appropriate authority.

“EFCC should liaise with Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), with respect to the assets declaration of public officials and civil servants. More than 2.5 million civil servants have undisclosed assets. Valuation of properties of public officers and civil servants should be a major focus for EFCC. Anticipatory asset declaration should be forbidden through a deliberate process of valuation before declaration and valuation review as verification.”He further said that a central online land registry that simply shows who owns what property would go a long way to creating greater transparency over the origins of money in the market, particularly when it includes the names of real beneficiaries of the property.

According to him, such measure would make investigations by EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), much easier, and also help other law enforcement join the dots as they pursue cases.

On vacant houses that abound across the country, he said, “In most high precincts and communities, large swathes of vacant houses exist with the owners uncaring and unperturbed about the long vacancies of the properties running into years, the government should realise that these are symptomatic of money laundering and such properties ought to be taxed to ensure that they are engaged in production occupation once they are vacant for more than one year.”

Contributing, a trustee of SPV, Isaac Fabiyi, said any transaction that is beyond a stipulated amount in real estate should be strongly regulated and reported to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission through its Special Control Unit Against Money Laundry (SCUML).

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