Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), on Tuesday said that over US$300 billion (about N45 trillion), had been laundered across ECOWAS countries since their independence.
Mr Timothy Melaye, Information Manager of the organisation, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
GIABA is a specialised institution of ECOWAS, established in 2000, to strengthen the capacity of member-states toward the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorists’ financing in the region.
Melaye said that available data showed that such money were stolen from individuals or looted from private and public treasuries.
“From GIABA’s investigations and available records, we discovered that over 300 billion dollars have been laundered in different ECOWAS countries since their independence.
“We discovered that within the period, cash was transferred from one part of the region to another, without pictures of such account owners on the necessary fund transfer documents.
“Which goes to show that money laundering went on under a different guise and for different purposes in the region, “ he said.
Melaye, however, noted that there was a `drastic reduction` in laundering activities in the region, in the last few years.
The Information Manager said that his organisation was currently working with financial institutions and the Financial Action Task Force, an International Intelligence outfit, in reducing the crime.
“Today, through our partnership with financial institutions in ECOWAS countries, the Swiss Embassy and other Inter-Governmental Agencies, we have been able to reduce money laundering in the region.
“We are, more importantly, presently working with banks, in checking the activities of terrorists’ sponsors.
“We believe that if sponsors of terrorism in the region have no money for arms, then there will be less of terrorist activities in West Africa, “ he said.
Melaye disclosed the organisation’s plan to increase awareness on laundering activities in the various countries.