Chairman of Independent Corrupt practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, has said that the commission will soon go after cryptocurrecy operators who now pose great danger to law enforcement agencies in the fight against corruption.
The ICPC chairman stated this in his address at a two-day capacity building retreat for members of House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption, ICPC board members and directors in Uyo.
Owasanoye who described virtual currencies as a major threat to the anti-graft investigators in the country explained that it is now being used as a leverage for terrorists financing and sundry criminal activities.
According to him the current National Identification Number registration and linking with SIM cards is a pointer to the fact that insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits, and drug merchants have used the anonymity of unregistered SIM cards to commit their crimes with relative ease
“Cryptocurrencies guarantee similar anonymity and can easily be used as leverage for terrorist financing and other crimes. With the NIN registration, Cryptocurrency has become an alternative payment platform for kidnappers and this would be impossible for law enforcement agencies to trace,” he said.
Citing a case study of an investigation by the commission on money laundering involving several hundreds of millions of naira, he lamented that the anonymity of digital currencies has led to its utilisation for criminal activities.
A sizable amount was traced to several bank accounts but before investigators recovered some of the money, a large proportion had been made to disappear using serpentine ICT-aided transfer schemes that has so far eluded investigators,” he said.
“While the persons whose accounts were used have been located, the criminal mastermind has remained invisible and unidentified. This real ongoing case is a glimpse into the world of anonymity of virtual or digital transactions. With cryptocurrencies, the wallet of the user of cryptocurrency system only stores information, or encrypted links in the blockchain where transaction confirmation can be found,” the ICPC boss added.
Owasanoye said the retreat was organised by the commission to enable it interface with the lawmakers and intimate them on some of the challenges facing the commission as well as update them on its achievements.