News / Africa

Lawyers Discuss Illicit Flow of Money from Africa

FILE - Money is seen piled in the back of a car in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa.
FILE - Money is seen piled in the back of a car in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa.
African lawyers say they are committed to bringing back money illegally taken out of the continent. During a meeting in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said the hemorrhage of money from Africa makes the continent heavily indebted and highly underdeveloped.

The lawyers say illicit financial flows, amounting to an estimated $50 to $60 billion per year, are carried out through theft and bribery by public officials, corporate transactions, criminal activities, international trade, public procurement and contracting, poorly enforced financial regulations and multi-national financial networks.  The African lawyers also say much of the loss cannot be traced.
The president of the Pan-African Lawyers Union, Elijah Banda, told VOA that illegal outflows are no longer only carried out by corrupt African leaders.
"The way we understand financial flows is not people taking boxes of cash across the borders. It is being undertaken in a very serious way in multi-national transactions, transfer pricing between corporations and their sister corporations overseas. Copper based countries that have an extractive industry are very prone to these activities. In Zambia we know that money is leaving the country which should not in form of proper declaration of taxes in form of proper declaration of profits by these multi-nationals. All these become illegal flows," said Banda.
A Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who has been instrumental in trying to bring back money taken out of his country, told VOA that multi-national companies work in collaboration with his country's political elite to loot the peoples' wealth.
"The Nigerian government out of sheer irresponsibility, after 54 years [of oil exportation] does not know how much oil is produced in Nigeria daily. They rely on what Shell, Mobil and the rest [of the oil companies] tell us. This is what we have lifted from the ground. We lose in some years like 2011, $16 billion in one year," said Falana, adding that bad legislation also facilitates the illegal outflow of money.
"In 2011, the [Nigerian] national assembly amended the money laundry act to allow anybody travelling out of the country to declare it.  That was primitive. What used to happen before then was that nobody could go out of the country with more than $10 thousand cash.  Any other amount beyond that had to go through a banking process, but when you say I can just make millions of dollars, get to the airport, declare it and take it out, that is primitive," said Felana.
Stopping the flow

A joint report by the African Development Bank and the United States advocacy group Global Financial Integrity, presented during the conference, indicated that between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion left Africa in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009, an amount which is almost equal to Africa's current gross domestic product.
Cameroonian born lawyer Akere Muna told VOA they are working with the World Bank to trace the money.
"The World Bank calls this initiative about money that has been taken out: 'stolen assets recovery initiative.' So the World Bank is calling the money that has been taken out stolen assets. It means therefore that if any bank deals with that money it is dealing with stolen assets," said Muna.
It will not be an easy thing to trace and bring back the money.
Anna Gardner of the London-based NGO "International Lawyers for Africa" told VOA that the process is often long and cumbersome.
"Firstly, there has to be due diligence in the victims country to identify how much money is missing. Then there is a process once that is identified to get court orders to say that those assets have been identified, they need to be frozen and then the real process now starts. It is a long and convoluted process, the burden of proof is too great," said Gardner.
Elijah Banda, however, says the lawyers resolved to bring the matter to the attention of the wider African public and the world through targeted messaging and the building of strong coalitions and partnerships.  
As Thabo Mbeki said, the massive illicit loss of money continues to hurt Africa's financial condition, development, and its future.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs