British envoy: How Nigeria can retrieve looted funds

Lagos: Nigeria’s efforts to retrieve looted funds must be backed by concrete evidence that they were indeed looted, British High Commissioner in the country, Richard Gozney has said.

Gozney, who appeared on a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) interview forum in Abuja, said the country may soon succeed in its campaign for debt forgiveness. He pointed out that the support given to the Nigerian campaign by two leading world media outfits, The Economist and the Financial Times was based on current developments in the country socio-political and economic sectors.

Speaking on the loot recovery effort, he said “The onus is on Nigeria to prove that the suspect is a looter. It is not enough to just shout that so so and so has money here, give it to us. It cannot work that way. Our legal system will not allow it.”

“We have changed our laws. The police, ICPC or EFCC in Nigeria must begin their own investigation before we can join,” he stated.

Gozney, however, said the law shall instantly apprehend any one found with large sums of money in Britain.

Another situation, he said, would be when there is an authentic report that showed that a suspect had a bank account that was questionable.

At such instance, he said Britain would offer “mutual legal assistance by detailing lawyers to investigate the issue.”

Gozney expressed his country’s desire to help Nigeria recover its looted funds provided it could prove that the owners of such funds were “bad guys in their native countries.”

He lauded the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s efforts toward ridding Nigeria of financial crimes and expressed his country’s readiness to assist in that direction.

He said his country was particularly concerned about the activities of fraudsters engaged in advance fee fraud, code named ‘419’ after the section of the Criminal Code.

Gozney agreed that most victims of 419 activities were greedy and stupid people, but said that all moves should be made to safeguard such people as it was not a crime to be stupid in Britain.

“Besides, greed is just a human attribute,” he declared.

Commenting on the debt forgiveness campaign now vigorously being pursued by Nigeria, the British envoy said “The views of the two media houses (The Economist and Financial Times) command a lot of respect worldwide and they are not likely to make such recommendation unless they are sure of what they are saying.

“What is uppermost in the minds of most” commentators is the desire to ensure that Nigeria does not spend so many billions of dollars on debt servicing,” he said.

He added that what the creditors wanted was an assurance that the monies so forgiven shall be channelled towards developing the economies of such debtor nations.

Gozney also cautioned Nigerian leaders against expenditure that could show that there was so much to spend in the country with crude oil selling for 50 dollars per litre.

“Daily, the world gets reports that state governors are building palaces or spending 20 million dollars on a parent’s funeral. Such reports only anger the creditors,” he said.

He called for good governance that would respect transparency, adding that result-oriented policies would force the creditors to soft-pedal on the debt question.

Another criteria, he said, is the execution of IMF projects as no debt forgiveness could be expected from the Paris Club without such projects.

Gozney also spoke on NEPAD, and explained that the initiative would be well supported by his country.

“The NEPAD initiative is made in Africa and supported by the best democracies like Nigeria and South Africa with one emerging from apartheid and another from years of totalitarianism.

“Britain’s thinking is that the objectives of NEPAD are home made and therefore trustworthy,” he stated.

This Day, April 22, 2005

Categories: Africa, Nigeria, Odious Debts

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