Financial scams originating in Nigeria are a ‘large and pressing problem for the UK’ but not enough is being done to tackle them, a new report has warned.
It says a string of internet scams and reports of credit card fraud, as well as incidents of money laundering are going unchecked by governments in both countries.
On one day in 2005 a check at Heathrow airport revealed £20 million worth of forged cheques and postal orders in courier mail from the African country’s capital, Lagos.
In another incident last year at a parcel centre in Coventry, customs officials seized more than £1 million in cheques hidden in a single handbag sent from the country.
But the study by independent research body Chatham House said corruption is sneaking through the net because it is not seen in Britain as a priority problem.
‘Criminal activity is carried out by a small minority of Nigerians, relative to the size of the country and the number of nationals resident in Britain or visiting it.
‘But the numbers of people involved are still significant and their successes reflect wider political and logistical shortcomings with the way the British authorities deal with financial crime.
‘Nigeria-related financial crime has become a large and pressing problem for UK authorities.’
It has been estimated that Nigeria-style fee frauds, where a conman sends an email allegedly looking for help to spirit looted funds out the country, costs the UK economy £150 million each year, with the average victim losing £31,000.
Michael Peel, the report’s author, added: ‘The scale and scope of Nigeria-related financial crime highlights critical wider failures in the way the British authorities tackle fraud, corruption and money laundering.
‘Despite important, but limited reforms, criminal networks and corporate bribery still flourish. This raises questions about how sincere the governments in both countries are in their talk of change, particularly when significant political, commercial or energy interests are at stake.’