19/06/2012: OUR ACCOUNTS ARE NOT FROZEN
The attention of the Embassy has been drawn to some recent publications in the Internet press indicating that the Accounts of the Embassy as well as the Consulates in Atlanta and New York, and also the Permanent Mission to the United Nations have all been frozen by Wells Fargo and Bank of America on alleged charges of money laundering. These allegations are malicious and are designed to malign the integrity of the leadership of the Nigerian missions in the U.S.
2. It is true that African Embassies have within the past one year been facing problems banking in the U.S. This arose as a result of the PATRIOT’S ACT by which stringent compliance regulations were imposed by the U.S. government to prevent possible money laundering that might be used to finance terrorist activities. The activities of Al-Shabab in Somalia make the issue of terrorism of particular concern to Africa.
3. The compliance regulations involve a large amount of paper work and staff time. Many banks thought that the amount of staff time and energy spent in fulfilling these strict compliance regulations is not justified by the profit they make in keeping the Embassies Accounts. This was why within the past 15 months, many African and Asian embassies were told to close their Accounts by their Bankers and look for new ones. The African Ambassadors Group both in Washington, DC and New York have held series of meetings with Government and banking authorities in America with a view to lessening the rigour of the PATRIOT’S ACT. The negotiation continues.
4. Initially, the Nigerian Embassies were not affected. But at the beginning of this year, we received notices from our banks giving us between three to four months to close our Accounts and look for new ones. The reasons cited were the PATRIOT’S ACT. Like most African Embassies, it was difficult to find banks willing to cope with the strict compliance regulations as imposed by the PATRIOT’S ACT. Those African Embassies, including that of Nigeria which eventually found other banks, could only do so through American banks which had branches in their countries. This is what the Nigerian Embassies did with the active support of our Central Bank. We now do business with a bank that has branches in Nigeria. The Central Bank pays our allocation to the bank and missions operate it from here.
5. It is therefore patently wrong and grossly mischievous to allege that our Embassies and Consulates in Washington, DC, New York and Atlanta had their Accounts frozen by Wells Fargo and Bank of America. None of the Nigerian Embassies and Consulates in the U.S. had had any dealing whatsoever with either of these banks. Accounts that did not exist could not have been frozen.
6. There has been no argument or disagreement not even a discussion of this issue between our government and that of our hosts. Members of the Nigerian public in the United States are hereby advised to disregard those publications. Our Embassies and Consulates are carrying out their normal functions and discharging their statutory obligations to their staff.
EMBASSY OF NIGERIA
June 19, 2012