UK Schools Fingered in West African Elites Money Laundering Deals – Report

A report published in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by a top expert on Nigeria, Matthew T. Page has disclosed that elites from West Africa use schools in the United Kingdom for money laundering.

Page, a former U.S Intelligence expert on Nigeria and currently a non-resident scholar at Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, uncovered information on how Nigerian and Ghanaian elites use illicit funds to send their wards to expensive schools in the UK.

He said while the full value of the illicit cashflow can’t be estimated easily, it is in the region of £30m annually.

The report, titled “West African Elites’ Spending On UK Schools and Universities: A Closer Look” pointed finger at the Nigerian government’s scholarship board, the Lagos State Scholarship board, the Petroleum Trust Development Fund, and Niger Delta Development Commission as possible channels through which these funds are laundered.

He said Ghanaian elites have also grown a penchant for sending their wards to universities in the United Kingdom, at the detriment of local education.

Page wrote that there has been a gradual reduction in the number of Nigerian students that gain admission every year to schools in the United Kingdom as the British government is trying to reduce these channels.

“Political, business, and cultural elites from around the world have a strong affinity for the United Kingdom (UK) education system. Nowhere is this truer than in West Africa, where some families in Nigeria and Ghana have a long tradition of sending their children to private boarding schools and universities in the UK, ” Page wrote.

These institutions are especially popular destinations for the offspring of prominent politically exposed persons (PEPs) from the region. Immigration officials, admissions staff, and UK law enforcement are not likely to scrutinize the conditions under which the children of PEPs enroll in British schools, even though the PEPs themselves may have modest legitimate earnings and opaque asset profiles that in other circumstances would raise serious financial concerns. This relative lack of review has allowed some West African PEPs to channel unexplained wealth into the UK education sector.
It is not easy to estimate the overall value of this flow, yet it likely exceeds £30 million annually.”

Most of these funds emanate from Nigeria and, to a lesser extent, Ghana; compared with these two countries, only a handful of students from elsewhere in West Africa seek an education in British schools. Tackling this small but significant illicit financial flow should be a priority for UK policy- makers.

“In doing so, they would be helping to realize the UK’s global anticorruption objectives, advance its International Education Strategy, and close a troublesome anti–money laundering (AML) loophole. Failing to do so would exacerbate existing corruption challenges both at home and abroad and increase the UK education sector’s reputational liabilities.”

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