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Ill-gotten gains: when billions of Africa redeem US villas

A recent report denounces the opacity of the US real estate sector, frequently used to launder money. In 13% of the cases studied, the capital comes from sub-Saharan Africa.

Embezzlement, use of front companies and specialized lawyers, insufficient regulation … 88% of real estate bought in the United States over the period 2015-2020 were acquired through an intermediary. The real estate market is regularly used to launder money from abroad, and the continent is not immune to this international phenomenon. In 13% of cases identified in the United States, the illicit money came from sub-Saharan Africa.
This is one of the lessons of the report by the NGO Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Financial Transparency Coalition working group. Released in early August, it is signed by analysts Lakshmi Kumar and Kaisa de Bel. Entitled « Acres of Money Laundering: Why American Real Estate is the Kleptocrats’ Dream, » the report analyzes more than 100 real estate money laundering cases reported between 2015 and 2020 in three English-speaking countries. -saxons (United States, United Kingdom and Canada).
Lakshmi Kumar and Kaisa de Bel’s conclusion is that current US regulations « have critical gaps that call for comprehensive reform » of the sector.
The report identifies that in about 13% of the cases studied, the illicit money came from sub-Saharan Africa: Guinea, Gambia, Nigeria and Republic of Congo. The latter is again mentioned in the study in the section on Canada.
Nigeria is among the top five places of origin of PEPs (politically exposed persons), defined as individuals who play or have played a leading political role. More than half of US cities if money laundering involved EPP.
The Diezani Alison-Madueke case
Among these politically exposed persons is among others the name of Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Nigerian oil minister from 2010 to 2015 under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. In his case, all the criteria were met: embezzlement of money by a high-ranking politician, recourse to front companies and specialized lawyers, insufficient local regulations …
In total, the one who was the first woman to occupy the rotating presidency of OPEC, is accused of having laundered, along with other political leaders, more than 1.5 billion dollars (approximately 1.3 billion dollars). euros) in planes, yachts, jewelry, gold iPhones and real estate in London, New York and California.
In May 2021, Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria, announced that $ 153 million (140 million euros) and more than 80 properties with a total value of 80 million dollars (60 million euros) had been seized.
Diezani Alison-Madueke categorically denies accusations of corruption and embezzlement. She fled her homeland in 2015 to settle in London and avoid prosecution.

Better verify the identity of buyers
The GFI report finally makes a series of recommendations for the United States to adopt, drawing inspiration from what has been put in place in the G7 countries.
In particular, GFI wants the expanded use of Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs), which require real estate title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind real estate purchases made by shell companies.
Beyond insurance companies, the report considers that real estate agents, legal professionals and financial advisers should also be required to identify the beneficial owners of a residential purchase when they are not directly involved. in the transaction.

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