A new report by Global Financial Integrity, an American think-tank focused on illicit financial flows, corruption, illicit trade and money laundering, has ranked Nigeria fifth among countries with the most politically exposed persons involved in real estate money laundering schemes in the US.
The report titled ‘Acres of money laundering: Why U.S. real estate is a kleptocrat’s dream’, delved into the murky world of global money laundering and demonstrated the ease with which kleptocrats, criminals, sanctions evaders, and corrupt government officials chose the US real estate market as their preferred destination to hide and launder proceeds from illicit activities.
A key finding from the report showed that from cases reported in the last five years, more than $2.3bn had been laundered through US real estate, including millions more through other alternate assets like art, jewelry, and yachts.
The report said over 50 per cent of the reported cases in the US involved politically exposed persons, which was particularly problematic considering the lack of guidance on PEP identification.
The report read, “Several excellent reports, including the US Department of the Treasury’s 2020 National Strategy to Combat Terrorist and Other Illicit Financing, document the high risk of money laundering in the US through the real estate sector, highlighting the role of gatekeeper professions in facilitating these schemes.
“In the U.S, well over half of all cases involved a PEP, with the top three PEP countries all from within the Western Hemisphere (Mexico, Venezuela, and Guatemala), followed by Malaysia and Nigeria.”
The report recommended a more robust approach by the US government in addressing the issue, including requiring real estate agents to identify the beneficial owner of a residential real estate purchase and making legal professionals the lead reporting entity for identifying money laundering risks in commercial real estate transactions.
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