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Freeze illegal IMTOs’ accounts funding black market, CBN orders banks

By Omodele Adigun

The Central Bank of Nigerian(CBN) has ordered all commercial banks to freeze accounts used by illegal International Money Transfer Operators(IMTOs) to siphon hard currencies to the black market just as it warns Nigerians abroad to stay away from such operators.

According to the apex bank, the illegal IMTOs lure customers with ridiculous exchange rate and use Naira accounts opened in local banks to channel foreign currencies to fund the parallel market.                                                                                      In a statement by its acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor, the CBN warns Nigerians in the Diaspora not to patronise unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators, as they stand the risk of losing their hard-earned money.

“Similarly, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) are enjoined to ensure painstaking conduct of ëKnow Your Customersí Business” (KYB) in order to prevent the use of accounts for illegal transactions and avoid regulatory sanctions. In addition, such accounts, when discovered, will be blocked and the operators handed over to appropriate law enforcement agencies for prosecution,” Okorafor warns.

The statement read in part: “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to the increasing patronage of illegal Money Transfer Operators by Nigerians in the Diaspora for the purpose of home remittances. These unscrupulous operators, who lure unsuspecting customers with ridiculous exchange rate, use Naira accounts opened in local banks ostensibly for legal business to pay out the proceeds to the beneficiaries while channeling the foreign currencies to fund the parallel market.

“This practice has led to non-reporting of such transactions to relevant authorities thereby undermining effective surveillance of the sector as well as leading to discrepancies in statistics on the transactions between countries of origin of remittance and the destination country, Nigeria. Against this background, Nigerians in the Diaspora are advised not to patronise unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators, as they stand the risk of losing their hard-earned money.

“Similarly, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) are enjoined to ensure painstaking conduct of ëKnow Your Customersí Businessí (KYB) in order to prevent the use of accounts for illegal transactions and avoid regulatory sanctions. In addition, such accounts, when discovered, will be blocked and the operators handed over to appropriate law enforcement agencies for prosecution.î

It then rolled out  the list of 35 IMTOs licensed and authorised to remit money to Nigeria on behalf of Nigerians in the Diaspora.

For some time now, the scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) seems to have defied all logic, prompting the apex bank to blame it on round tripping. Meanwhile, the Naira fell briefly to a new low OF 375.50 to the dollar on the official market on Tuesday but rebounded after the central bank pumped $1.5 million into the market to stabilise it..

An FMDQ official confirmed a single trade worth $10,000 had been made at a rate of 376.63 early on Tuesday but gave no further details.

Liquidity on the official market remains limited and dealers said importers seeking dollars need to go to the black market, where the currency traded at 465 on Tuesday,

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