Body tries to stop bleeding of African assets
Former SA president Thabo Mbeki chairs grouping
THE United Nations panel tasked with investigating the smuggling of Africa's financial assets is pushing ahead with its job despite lack of information.
Former president Thabo Mbeki, who chairs the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (Uneca), said they were exploring ways to secure information on how large sums of money that should have been invested on the continent were ending up in private offshore bank accounts.
The "deficiency" of information, which Mbeki said needed to be tackled, formed part of the discussion at the panel's meeting at the weekend.
Mbeki said the panel, established three months ago to examine the illicit outflow of capital from Africa, had received strong support from international bodies such as Transparency International.
He said partnering with various organisations and individuals would enable the free sharing of information, thus helping the panel to formulate recommendations to policy makers by the end of the year.
"We've looked at information there is and it is clear that not enough research has been done," he told journalists in Johannesburg.
Available information suggests that close to $3trillion was smuggled out of Africa between 1970 and 2008, denying the continent the economic growth it could achieve, he said.
Methods used to send money out of the country illegally include over-invoicing and underpricing of exports, and money-laundering.
Mbeki related a case in which a senior official in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years after he smuggled millions of dollars out of the continent - from illegal mining - to the United Kingdom.
Mbeki raised concern at how this money, like in many other cases, was laundered through normal banking systems.
In some instances, the culprits "cook the books" and deposit profits in tax havens (countries with no tax or lax regulations) or would use a method called "transfer pricing", which involves exaggerating the value of what is being imported.
The panel, including Uneca executive chairman Abdoulie Janneh, Coca-Cola Nigeria chairman Olusegun Apata and the director of Global Financial Integrity in the US, Raymond Baker, expressed interest in partnering with the European Union, which was discussing new legislation to deal with the matter.
"Africa is interested in this and wants to cooperate to ensure transparency," Mbeki said.