But behind this flourishing economic activity are hidden, alongside legal investments, much less advisable operations. Difficult to define all the outlines and even less to know all the authors, circuits and the entire chain of complicity. All things that make it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the origin of the funds and thus facilitate the laundering of dirty money.
Money laundering consists of concealing the source of money acquired illegally (illegal speculation, mafia activities, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, extortion, corruption, tax evasion, etc.) by reinvesting it in legal activities (for example real estate construction). This is one of the key aspects of financial crime without which criminals could not massively use this illegal income without being spotted.
The need for money laundering is linked to an underlying offense, an activity whose income is considered dirty money (illegally acquired). These offenses are listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - an intergovernmental body created by the G7 in 1987 - and inserted in recent years into the criminal procedure code of each country.
According to the 2018 report of the 2018 Commission of the Intergovernmental Group of Action against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), "corruption" and "drug trafficking" are the main predicate offenses for the money laundering in the subregion: 16 reported cases for each. Then come the "fraud / tax evasion" with 14 reported cases, "trafficking in persons" and "counterfeiting" with 13 and 12 cases reported respectively for each of its offenses. "Theft" and "smuggling" record 11 cases, followed by "sexual exploitation" and "other offenses" with 5 cases each.
These interrogations prompted the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO) to initiate the Money Laundering in Real Estate project (money laundering in real estate).
Although the statistical data provided by GIABA are still small compared to the reality of the scale of these offenses, the ranking of the predominant offenses that results is rather in line with the general perception in the Member States, the GIBA experts add, . However, what does not emerge from GIABA's work is where this illegally acquired money is invested and how it goes.
These interrogations prompted the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO) to initiate the Money Laundering in Real Estate project (money laundering in real estate). This involved bringing together a decade journalists in Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire in October 2018 to prepare them to investigate cases or suspected cases of money laundering in real estate.
This project aims to support the realization of a dozen investigations revealing cases of money laundering in the building in West African countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea , Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire.
In the implementation, the journalists had to face obstacles in connection with the availability of data, access to information as well as legislation that is not conducive to investigation.
It must be recognized, however, that some West African countries have strengthened their legal and institutional environment in relation to the fight against money laundering in recent years. This has resulted in the adoption of numerous laws and regulations, with the creation and / or operationalization of structures dedicated to the issue of the fight against money laundering and the fight against the financing of terrorism and / or offenses. affiliates. It must be recognized, however, that when it comes to the application of these texts, especially when it concerns the rulers, it is the cross and the banner.
It was therefore important that CENOZO be able to expose this scourge in order to draw the attention of public opinion and policy makers to the need to bring justice to action when necessary. The survival of the economies of West African states is at stake, given that the dirty money circulating in this area exceeds the general GDP of the region.