Corruption has a particularly corrosive impact on state capacity and is a concern in West Africa at all levels in which The Gambia is part. Tackling corruption deals with the various strata, from the lowest to the highest level, involving the judiciary, public services provision, the executive industries, and the nexus between the highest political office and organised crime.
The latest information can be found in the Inter- Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa better known as GIABA in its report dubbed “Threat Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in West Africa”.
According to GIABA publication, corrupt officials often use their position of power to aid the laundering of the proceeds of corruption, highlighting the need for strong provisions rewgarding Politically Exposed Person (PEPs) in Anti Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes.
The report added that the property and formal banking sector are also at risk from funds derived from corruption.
GIABA say money is the lifeblood of crime, as it of any business, and so the legitimisation of illicit proceeds is essential for organised criminals to return a profit on their nefarious activities. As, such the report said that the fight against money laundering is a critical part of international efforts to prevent and disrupt criminal activity of all types.
Furthermore, the financing of terrorism poses a significant threat throughout the world, and so multilateral efforts to ensure international peace and security.
In this context, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of GIABA launched the report, aimed at discerning the nature and scale of the threat faced by states around the world from money laundering and terrorist financing. In addition, the report seeks to contribute to the Global Thereat Assessment process. The report conducts a threat assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing in the West Africa region specifically in Benin, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivorie, The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
Much laundering mirrors the economic activity of West Africa, and in this context, it appears the most important sector of concern is real estate, which is also one of the most popular means by which to stove value-both legitimate and illegitimate in many West African countries.
According to the report, The Gambia is a particular concern given its historic association with diamond smuggling from Sierra Leone in the 1990s.
The report suggested that Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia and Senegal must seek to join the Kimberley Certtification Process even if they do not produce diamonds, since the stones are easy to smuggle across borders, thereby facilitating smuggling and money laundering.
The report went on to say that stepts should be taken to make certificatiobns for raw materials such as diamonds harder to forge. Law enforcement agencies in the region should establish training programmes for customs, police and other relevant services so as to improve their ability to recognised counterfeit documentation and to investigate its provenance.
The establishment of a co-ordination mechanism for the Kimberley Process in ECOWAS, GIABA report said would be one means to improve regional harmonisation on these efforts.
In addition, the report indicated that relevant governments should ensure that a system of registration and supervision of precious metal and stone dealers is in place and fully operational, in accordance with FATF recommendation 6.
However, gold smuggling in Ghana, the export of diamonds from Liberia and Sierra Leone though Cote d’ Ivoire and the export of oil from Nigeria are among other significant sources of funds and methods of laundering, said the report.
The smuggling of illicit commodities, such as guns, is a major source of illicit funds noting that arms trafficking is most prevalent in areas of rebels activity, such as the Niger Delta northern Cote d’ Ivoire.
Cash smuggling is facilitated by the complicity of some airport security agents and other officials working at the airport.
It went on to noted that prominent businessmen, including those from ethnic minority communities in Cote d’ Ivoire, regularly charter aircraft to fly from Abidjan or other West African cities directly to Beirut or other cities. These, flights undergo minimum scrutiny and have been linked to cash smuggling rings.
In Ghana, the report went on, cash smuggling through Kotoko airport has been intense.
Cash smuggling is also particularly frequent at the Nigeria and Benin border noting that smugglers on either side of the border move cash between the two countries, often hidden in bales of cloths and within the soles of shoes.
The threat assessment report revealed that Nigerian naira, British pounds, US dollars and euros, as well as counterfeit notes printed on either side of the border, are all smuggled.
The foreign exchange bureaus are happy to facilitate the movement of funds. According to a risk consultant in Ghana, cash smugglers are given fake receipts for purchases of foreign currency in return for fee.
In Cape Verde, money changers are the preferred means of changing money as only relatively small amounts can be changed in the banks.