Money Laundering from Africa to the United States
By Paul Ndiho
The U.S. Senate is investigating how four African countries are using American institutions to funnel millions of dollars into the United States. Some African politicians and their family members are buying expensive houses, luxury goods and banking millions of dollars in America.
A Senate subcommittee is looking at how politically powerful individuals from Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Gabon and, Nigeria are illegally moving millions of dollars through U.S. banks. U.S. Senator Carl Levin says the financial corruption must end.
“If we want to credibly lead efforts to stop illegal money abroad, we’ve got to stop it here at home as well. The fact is that those engaged in large-scale corruption want to put their money in a modern financial system that can store, protect, invest, and transfer their funds efficiently. They want access to U.S. banks. And it is our job to stop them and keep foreign corruption out of the United States.”
A report co-authored by the U.S. Senate alleges that American lawyers, real estate agents and others are helping African officials to launder money in America. U.S. financial institutions have built stronger barriers to keep out suspicious funds. William J. Fox, Senior Vice-President at Bank of America takes responsibility for errors that allowed money to be moved through his institution.
“Our investigators missed looking back at the histories and wire activities that involves some accounts. I think this in our judgment was clearly a bad judgment call.”
Transparency International names Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Gabon and, Nigeria, as some of the countries where corruption remains one of the biggest challenges.
In Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the 40-year old son of the President, allegedly moved more than $100 million in suspicious funds through U.S. bank accounts. Mr. Nguema reportedly paid $38 million dollars for a Gulfstream jet, and bought a $35 million dollar Manson in the United States, while earning only $5-thousand dollars a month as the country’s Minister of Agriculture. Equatorial Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world despite earning billions of dollars a year in oil revenenues.
Omar Bongo was President of Gabon for decades until his death last year, and his eldest son, Ali Bongo, takes his father’s place as President. Both men are notorious for accumulating massive wealth in an impoverished country. Multi-million-dollar suspicious wire transfers were allegedly directed by President Omar Bongo through U.S. banks, and from 2000 and 2007, Bongo is said to have transferred large amounts of cash to his daughter, Yamilee Bongo-Astier, who was then living in New York.
Jennifer Douglas is a U.S. citizen and a wife of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria. From 2000 to 2008, she allegedly helped her husband bring more than $40 million in suspicious money into the United States through wire transfers from offshore corporations.