Banking with the nuns – By Louis Odion, FNGE


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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