Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Femi Falana, has revealed that he once rejected a million pounds brief from a former governor in order to help him (ex-governor) launder funds abroad.
Mr. Falana, therefore, asked lawyers not to succumb to the temptation of filthy lucre to assist politically exposed persons (PEPs) to commit financial crimes.
The senior lawyer made the disclosure at an anti-corruption workshop in Abuja, which was released to the press yesterday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in its monthly magazine “ALERT”.
“The governor asked me to assist him in transferring money abroad, and that I should claim it to be proceeds from sale of his property in Nigeria”, Falana started.
He continued: “And the price was extremely attractive. He was going to pay me a million pounds then, when money was money.
“The governor said he had chosen me for the shady deal, because ‘nobody will suspect you’.
“I told him, ‘Your Excellency, so it is my reputation that you want to buy with your one million pounds?’
“Some of my colleagues thought I was stupid, but those who accepted the offer later found themselves in trouble, as they were arrested and humiliated. They were only lucky not to have been charged to court”.
Falana advised lawyers against being used by PEPs.
He said: “Lawyers have a paramount role to play in the fight against economic and financial crimes, as they are the ones usually employed by well-heeled members of the society to help perfect documents for illicit transactions, and to cover up their tracks”.
He equally picked holes in the ruling of Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court, Abuja, who held that Section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, could not be applied to lawyers.
The judge in the ruling, barred the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) from enforcing the section as it relates to legal practitioners.
“It is my submission that the judgment, with profound respect, cannot exculpate any lawyer who commits any offence under the law. This judgment cannot stand the test of time”, Falana said.
On the recent bill at the National Assembly seeking to amend the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012, he said it would “unwittingly weaken anti-graft agencies like the EFCC, hampering the effective discharge of their duties in combating financial crimes”.
However, he urged the National Assembly to call for a public hearing to ensure that “the amendment of the Money Laundering Act, would not be done hastily”.