West African economy suffers from increased cross-border cash smuggling

Actors in the fight against cross-border bulk cash smuggling have once again established that the predominance of cash in commercial transactions in West Africa and the informality of the economy make the region vulnerable and attractive to criminals. .

Stakeholders, including the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Regional Financial Action Task Force Body (FSRB) ) in charge of combating the scourge of money laundering (ML) and the financing of terrorism (TF) in West Africa and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, also traced the challenges of identification, tracing and recovery from the laundered proceeds of crime faced by security officers in the region to cash transactions.

Speaking at a three-day workshop / training on “Prevention of Cross-Border Bulk Cash Smuggling” organized by GIABA in Lagos, the Director General of the Intergovernmental Action Group, Mr. Aba Kimelabalou, admitted that cross-border smuggling and smuggling of bulk cash goods has remained endemic criminal activities in West African countries, with negative implications for the economies of member states, as commercial transactions in cash and contraband give perpetrators the anonymity they need to conduct illicit transactions.

He said: “In particular, cross-border bulk cash smuggling and cash transactions pose unique challenges to law enforcement efforts and the effective implementation of the AML / CFT regime in general. A recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report on ML via Physical Transport of Cash recognized that cash smuggling is a significant risk and a growing problem. The report noted that cash is still widely used in the criminal economy and remains the raw material for most criminal activity, ”

Kimeabalou also pointed out that the use of physical cash transport keeps the proceeds of crime away from the underlying offenses that generated them and breaks audit trails. According to him, these challenges coupled with weak security checks at entry / exit points; porous national borders; and weak currency reporting and / or disclosure regimes negatively impact national and regional efforts against ML / FT.

“The typology studies on cash transactions and money couriers in West Africa undertaken by GIABA in 2007 highlighted the vulnerability of cash transactions to money laundering and terrorist financing and the low implementation of the currency / BNI declaration regime in our region. The conclusions of the study are reinforced by the results of the mutual evaluations of GIABA Member States, which show general shortcomings with respect to the requirements of FATF Recommendation 32 in particular relating to money couriers. identify and detect a breach of the obligation to declare cross-border transport of currency and BNI, as well as undertake the necessary investigations to establish any links between the amounts seized and possible cases of FT or ML ”, a he declared.

While reiterating that cash remains strategically important for trade and will remain so for many years to come, especially in the West African region, the DG said the goal of l he workshop was not to discuss how to completely eliminate the use of cash in transactions. in the country or region, but to provide a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on the implications of cash messaging and to consider options to address the issue.

Thus, the main objective of the program was to strengthen the operational capacities of critical agencies in the country and to provide a platform for the sharing of experiences and the promotion of cooperation and collaboration for the implementation. efficient currency / BNI reporting regime in Nigeria.

Giving his opening speech at the training, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), represented by the Comptroller General of Law Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection, Mr. Elton Edorhe, said the theme of the workshop is important now that the ECOWAS region is currently facing the challenges of various cross-border crimes such as kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, adding that most of these crimes are linked to cross-border cash smuggling.

Katy F. Molnar