UK NEW ORDERS: KEEP YOUR MONEY ANYWHERE, BUT PAY TAXES DUE FG –ADEOSUN TELLS WEALTHY NIGERIANS
As British Government set to launch the new Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) this week, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun has advised wealthy Nigerians with assets overseas to declare and pay their necessary taxes to the Federal Government.
“It’s essential for Nigerians resident in Nigeria to declare all their U.K. assets correctly under the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS to avoid the U.K.’s new Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs). The VAIDS Amnesty Window is open until March 31,” Adeosun stated over the weekend.
The new Unexplained Wealth Orders will be used from next week to seize the United Kingdom assets of wealthy people suspected of having profited from the proceeds of crime.
The orders were introduced in the Criminal Finance Act last year but are only now coming into effect.
The orders will force wealthy individuals to explain to UK officials how they acquired assets worth more than £50,000.
Officials estimate that around £90bn of illegal money is laundered through the UK every year.
Property in London and other major cities in the United Kingdom is said to be the major destination of corrupt cash.
The British news media mention Russian oligarchs in this regard, but the measure applies to individuals from all countries.
Days ago, Transparency International UK has identified £4.4 billion worth of properties in the UK that may be the target of UWOs.
Five properties it suspects had been bought using corrupt wealth includes two by Nigeria’ Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki located at 7 and 8, Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London worth £9 million and £6 million respectively.
Based on current market estimates by Zoopla, the properties are worth a combined total of around £15 million.
According to data released as part of the Panama Papers, these companies were controlled by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the Senate President as well as one of his personal aides.
At the time of these revelations, none of these offshore holdings were reported in Saraki’s official asset declarations.
When asked by The Guardian about these properties, Saraki stated said he had declared all his assets correctly and in accordance with Nigerian legislation.
British Security minister Ben Wallace said new powers set to come into force this week will be used as part of a crackdown on gangsters.
He said foreign criminals and corrupt members of the global elite will see the “full force of government” used against them.
“Unexplained wealth orders can be used against everyone from a local drug trafficker to an international oligarch or overseas criminal,” Wallace said in an interview with The TIMES.
“If they are an MP (lawmaker) in a country where they don’t receive a big salary but suddenly they have a nice Knightsbridge townhouse worth millions and they can’t prove how they paid for it, we will seize that asset, we will dispose of it and we will use the proceeds to fund our law enforcement.”
“We are going to go after these iconic individuals, whether they are known about in t in their local community or known about internationally.”
Rachel Davies Teka of anti-corruption Transparency International UK, said: “The introduction of UWOs is a significant moment in the fight against dirty money flowing into the UK.
“They will allow law enforcement to much more easily investigate assets that are highly likely to have been bought using corrupt money, often stolen from populations in some of the poorest parts of the world. From Russia to Nigeria to the Middle East it is no secret that corrupt officials have channelled ill-gotten funds into the UK via the property market”.
But Adeosun said the UK new Orders is only the beginning as more countries will follow suit with initiatives like this.
“There will be no hiding space for tax dodgers/evaders at home and abroad. The offshore tax shelter system is basically over. Those who’ve hidden money overseas are being exposed, and whilst Nigerians can legally keep their money anywhere in the world, they must first pay any taxes due to the Nigerian Government,” she declared.
The Finance Minister added that this is an opportunity for wealthy Nigerians that will be affected by the new orders to take advantage of the VAIDS and declare all their foreign income and assets before they become public.
“People should keep in mind that if you’re a Nigerian resident in Nigeria and earn income overseas, that income is taxable in Nigeria! Nigeria and foreign governments have started exchanging this information. VAIDS offers a way for you to declare and regularize,” Adeosun said.