GIABA to research links between money laundering and maritime crime in Gulf of Guinea, Niger Delta
Dakar, Senegal, 9th October 2020 – The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the European Union (EU) have signed an agreement for research on how money laundering, terrorist financing and illicit financial flows are linked to maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The EU has provided EUR 300,000 for the research which will be conducted by GIABA, an institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The research is part of ECOWAS’ Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) Project, also funded by the EU. SWAIMS aims to strengthen governance and law-enforcement frameworks, prosecution and adjudication of maritime crimes, as well as strengthen law-enforcement operational capacities and responses. In this way, SWAIMS directly contributes to the implementation of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy.
According to GIABA’s Director of Policy and Research, Mr Muazu Umari, “GIABA will also assess the effectiveness of institutional and operational responses on piracy and related criminality in ECOWAS member states.” Selected coastal countries are Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The Gulf of Guinea is a major maritime region on a global scale. It is located at the crossroads of major maritime routes, and home to important natural resources including fisheries, minerals and oil.
“ECOWAS and EU interests are aligned in promoting security within the ECOWAS region. In the maritime domain, we pursue these through a range of initiatives, as part of the EU Strategy for the Gulf of Guinea,” said Mr Kurt Cornelis, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS.
GIABA is responsible for strengthening the capacity of ECOWAS member states to prevent and control money laundering and terrorist financing. GIABA assists National Financial Intelligence Units in gathering and analysing reports on suspicious financial flows, activities and transactions, and follow-up investigations.
Mr Serge Rinkel, SWAIMS Team Leader said SWAIMS includes a component on how criminal networks launder the proceeds of crimes committed at sea. “This is important because maritime crime funds the activities of organised criminal groups and terrorist groups in the region. The lack of knowledge on illicit financial flows impedes effective investigations and counter-measures against oil bunkering, piracy, illegal fishing and the associated corruption,” he said.
Tracking proceeds of crimes committed at sea and understanding how these enter the legitimate financial sector is crucial. Ransom payments for shipping crew kidnapped in piracy attacks are made in cash that enters local economies in a substantive manner, particularly in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. This is where most pirate groups are based, and where armed robbery is most prevalent. In addition, little is known on how goods stolen from ships enter local trading circuits.
Similarly, the impact on price and production from the sale of fish caught illegally or traded illicitly (saiko and leggo in local parlance in Ghana and Nigeria, respectively) is not well understood, nor how these proceeds enter local financial circuits in coastal areas. The sale of stolen oil and proceeds from unlawful purchase of fishing licences are also of regional significance, and closely coupled to corruption in the private and public sectors.
GIABA’s research on the above will commence in late 2020. The research report will be widely shared with all stakeholders, and will provide a basis for formulating well-informed counter-piracy interventions and other research-based measures against related criminality in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
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