Corruption and Underdevelopment

You can go to jail for accommodating fraudsters, EFCC warns hoteliers

By Paul Michael

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has warned hotel owners to avoid being accomplices to Yahoo Boys who check into their facilities for internet fraud and money laundering activities or risk being prosecuted and jailed.

The Ilorin Zonal Commander of the Commission, ACE II Michael Nzekwe, gave the admonition on Thursday, June 16, 2022, while addressing a stakeholder meeting of Designated Non-Financial Institutions (DNFIs) at the Commission’s Office along Catchment Road, GRA, Ilorin.

According to Nzekwe, “the Commission has observed a worrying pattern of cold complicity by hospitality entrepreneurs who appear to be hands-in-gloves with suspected fraudsters by housing them over long spells and making internet facilities available to them.”

While warning hoteliers against allowing cybercriminals into their facilities, the Zonal Commander said that hoteliers would be contravening Section 3 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act if they continue to allow Yahoo Boys to check into their hotels.

“Section 3 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 provides for a prison term of between five and 15 years without an option of fine for any person who permits his premises to be used for any offence under the Act,” he said.

According to him, the meeting was called to sensitize stakeholders on the rising activities of fraudsters and the need to support the Commission in the fight against corruption. He said that ignorance was not an excuse under the law.

“While the argument is being made in certain quarters that hoteliers as business people have no means of determining who a fraudster is before allowing them to lodge in their facilities, that position runs counter to the law,” Nzekwe said.

He urged the hoteliers to always ask their customers for means of identification and to fill their occupation as part of the check-in procedure.

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The Zonal Commander also implored them to support the Commission with credible and actionable information, adding that such information when received would be treated with absolute confidentiality.

The President of Hotel Owners Association, Kwara State, Mr Dauda Akande and Chief Isaac Omogbenle Adeyemi, the immediate past chairman of the Association while responding mentioned some of the challenges faced by hotel owners in dealing with customers.

According to them, the challenges include concealment of identity by guests, difficulty in determining a fraudster before allowing them to lodge in their facilities and safety of whistle blowers among others.

They commended the EFCC for its professionalism and doggedness in the anti-graft war, while pledging their support for the Commission in its bid to stem the scourge of corruption in Nigeria.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Zonal Commander had urged compliance officers of banks to be diligent in the discharge of their duties and to ensure that they play active role in tackling money laundering and other fraudulent practices in the banking sector.

He frowned at the actions of some bank officials, who aid and abet money laundering activities and other economic and financial crimes, describing such acts as “a sign of systemic abuse and failure on the part of such banks.”

According to him, “there is no major fraud, especially money laundering that is ever committed without the connivance of the bank officials, and such must be discouraged.”

On the issue of ‘Know Your Customer (KYC)’ and ‘Know Your Customer’s Business (KYCB)’, Nzekwe tasked the bankers to take the requirement seriously as it would help to keep fraudulent customers on the radar.

Participants at the meeting assured the EFCC of their support by offering necessary information that could assist it in fighting corruption.

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