Nigerian casinos accused of aiding terrorism through money laundering

Jacaranda Casino in Abuja, Nigeria

Jacaranda Casino in Abuja, Nigeria

The Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering (GIABA), a financial intelligence body based in West Africa, has stated that as many as 300 casinos in Nigeria may be engaged in money laundering.

Over the last 20 years, the Nigerian government has been trying to resolve the battle with jihadists in the country’s northeast. And in the aftermath of a new wave of attacks by terrorist organizations in the country, the government is stepping up its efforts to hinder any source from financing terrorism.

Most recently, on July 5, gunmen affiliated with ISWA bombed and ambushed a prison located in the Federal Capital Territory, making it possible for an unspecified number of inmates to flee the facility.

According to the US Department of State, these organizations often attack humanitarian camps, security personnel, churches, schools, government facilities, educational institutions, and travelers.

It was also mentioned that the majority of the gambling establishments were owned by people from other countries, including South Africa, China, Lebanon, the United States of America, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The casinos are mainly located in Lagos, the most populated and commercial city in the country, and also in the capital, Abuja. Even though it is mandatory for operators to report suspicious transactions to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the vast majority of them fail to do so.

According to GIABA’s analysis, one of the contributing factors to the issue was a lack of enforced penalties against non-compliant operators. The group was particularly concerned by the fact that just eight NFUI staff members supervised the casinos, even though they employed more than 200 people.

In a 2021 assessment report, which was published the previous year, a specialized agency responsible for facilitating the adoption and enforcement of anti-money laundering and counter-financing terrorism laws in West Africa stated that ISWAP moved approximately N18 billion ($36 million) generated from levying communities in the Lake Chad region through Nigeria’s financial system yearly.

The review also indicted the administration of President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.) for failure to seize the assets of terrorists as required by the worldwide standards for combating money laundering and terrorism funding.

In the meantime, the Financial Action Task Force may impose penalties on Nigeria since the country does not comply with certain rules for the prevention of money laundering and funding terrorism. Reports said there is little time left for the country to adhere to the international guidelines that were imposed by the agency.

The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, has set up a committee with the goal of reviewing records received from the NFIU and providing information that is required for the efficient operation of the FATF in the nation.

The 21-person team, which was led by DCP Adegbite Olaolu and tasked with compiling the report, was instructed to do so within one week.

Kabir Adamu, a security and risk evaluation specialist, stated that there were loopholes in the laws governing money laundering and the funding of Nigerian terrorism. However, he added that the goal of the Terrorism Prevention Act, which was modified some months earlier, was to align the country’s terrorism law with international standards and practice.

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