In recent times, a lot of interest has been generated by the action of the Commission in freezing the accounts of suspects that were investigated or are currently being investigated. Some commentators have tended to ascribe vindictive motives to this action. In order to prevent misinformation, it is imperative to explain the reason behind the Commission’s actions in this regard.
Freezing of accounts suspected of being used for commission of financial crimes is a mandatory investigative step backed by law.
Indeed, Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the Commission to freeze any account suspected of being used for financial crimes.
The section stipulates that, “the Chairman of the Commission or any officer authorized by him may, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of this Act, apply to the Court ex-parte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.”
Similar provision in the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012 (as amended), also empowers the EFCC Chairman or his representatives to place a stop order on any account or transaction suspected to be involved in any crime.
The intendment of these provisions is to ensure that the Commission safeguards suspected proceeds of crime pending the completion of its investigation. It is without prejudice to the social standing of the holder of such accounts or whether they are individual, corporate or government accounts.
Freezing orders are incidental to investigation and doing otherwise will jeopardize the prospects of recovering stolen assets. [EFCC]