Banking with the nuns - By Louis Odion, FNGE

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EFCC Boss

In biblical times, manna was said to have rained from Heaven to save Israelites from starving to death in the wilderness. In Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, a group of Catholic nuns chanced on what could perhaps be described as the fiduciary equivalent of that special heavenly delicacy a few days ago.  It was a princely cash haul amounting to $7m in assorted foreign currencies like dollars, yen and euro.
 But the difference this time: the cash did not cascade from heaven. The plastic money bags were reportedly tipped over the wall into the monastery where the nuns live. But rather than help themselves, the sisters alerted the police. An impromptu manhunt led to Mr. Jose Lopez, Public Works Minister in the immediate past administration of Christina Fernadez de Kirchner under investigation for massive corruption.
 Earlier, Lopez was questioned for illegal possession of a rifle. Now, the charge of money laundering has been added. Besides the cash, other valuables like expensive wristwatches in their glittering cases were also found in the bags.


Louis Odion

"It's almost out of a movie," said Marco Pena, a senior government official.
 With forensic search being conducted by the Argentine investigators of the financial system, corrupt officials in the the last administration which lost power last December have apparently realized the futility of hiding stolen money in banks.
 For Lopez, thought of a monastery as safe haven for his loot was, it must be stressed, a testament to prodigious ingenuity. Who would have ever ascribed bales of dollars to the usually sedate, if not penurious, air around such a religious community - the habitat of those assumed to have sworn to the oath of asceticism?
 When the security agents finally caught up with Lopez, more smoking guns were allegedly unearthed. More wads of cash were found in the car he was traveling.
 

Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu

But all told, Lopez would only seem to be rehearsing a page from the manual of infamy people are long accustomed to in the United States and Nigeria. A little over a decade ago, a black congressman was accused of collecting $100k bribe from a high-ranking official in the Obasanjo administration. When the FBI agents stormed his residence, they found the cash neatly hidden away in - wait for it - a refrigerator! Even the otherwise stone-faced investigators could not resist the temptation to pause and salute the accused's sense of proportion. Of course, being "hot money", no better place could have been found to allow the dough "cool down".

Goodluck Jonathan

 Few years ago, when a Kano-born federal lawmaker who chaired an investigative panel looking into the subsidy sleaze was given over half a million dollar bribe by one of the tycoons being investigated, he reportedly could not think of a better place to hide the bales of green-back than his commodious iconic Zanna cap.
 By the time he emerged from the "fattening" suite in his flowing Senagalese and cap still in place, it was as if nothing had happened.

Tafa Balogun

 Like Lopez, our own one-time Air Force chief, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosun, came under national spotlights after being allegedly found to have buried sacks of dollars in the soak-away pit of his country-home, apparently to evade the prying eyes of security agents. (An improvement on the record of disgraced Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, who stashed away billions in Naira notes in the underground vault in his home.)
 Amosu is presently under trial for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through bogus arms contracts while he led the Air Force under Goodluck Jonathan.
 It is easy to understand why looters are growing wary of hiding their loot in the traditional financial system. Technology has knocked down all the old barriers. When the hunter learns to shoot without missing, as they say, the bird learns to fly without perching.

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