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Tip leads anti-graft SWAT team to upscale Lagos pad and bundles of U.S. cash

GIN | 4/20/2017, 2:59 p.m.
Neatly bound bundles of fresh U.S. dollars, Nigerian naira and British pounds totaling more than $50 million were recovered by ...
Money found in anti-gaft swat team raid

(GIN)—Neatly bound bundles of fresh U.S. dollars, Nigerian naira and British pounds totaling more than $50 million were recovered by an anti-graft “swat team” in a raid at the Osborne Towers, a luxury building in an upscale section of Lagos. 

The raid was orchestrated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, acting on a new policy targeting corruption and ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari. The policy provides an incentive for whistleblowers, who stand to receive between 2.5 percent and 5 percent of the recovered amount when ill-gotten gains are found. 

Since the policy was put in place, several raids, based on whistle-blower tips, have resulted in large cash hauls. According to their website, the EFCC recovered unreported funds of $817,000 in a Lagos Market and $41.5 million at a shopping plaza for a total of more than $180 million since the beginning of the year. 

Now, a referee will be required to decide who owns the massive trove because at least two Nigerian officials have claimed rights to it—Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rovers State and the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke, who claims the cash was currency for “covert operations.” 

Osborne Towers is one of the posh new high-rises built for Nigeria’s pampered elite. Residents include a former governor, a recently retired officer of the national oil company and a TV personality, among others. 

Activist lawyer Femi Falana in an open editorial expressed disbelief. “Are Nigerians to believe that an agency of the federal government kept about $50 million in an apartment without adequate security personnel to guard the money?” Falana asked. “Why was the fund not kept in a safe in the office of the national security adviser?” 

But this week Nigerians weren’t the only ones having to explain the provenance of large sums of cash.  High level executives at Royal Dutch Shell and the Rome-based oil and gas company Eni, according to an investigation by the watchdog groups Global Witness and Finance Uncovered, knowingly took part in a “vast bribery scheme that robbed the Nigerian people of over a billion dollars.” 

Titled “Shell Knew,” the report includes newly unearthed internal emails showing that the oil companies were aware that a $1 billion payment for “one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks” would end up in the hands of convicted money launderer and ex-Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, and from there “would flow onward for bribes.” 

“This is one of the worst corruption scandals the oil industry has ever seen, and this is the biggest development so far,” said Simon Taylor, co-founder of Global Witness, which has been investigating the scandal for six years. The oil giants have long-denied that they were aware of any foul play, saying that they only made payments to the Nigerian government. 

“Today’s new evidence shows senior executives at the world’s fifth biggest company knowingly entered into a corrupt deal that deprived the Nigerian people of $1.1 billion,” Taylor continued. “That is more than the country’s entire health budget for 2016.” 

Shell is currently facing trial for charges of international corruption; an Italian court will begin hearings April 20 to determine whether the trial will proceed.