UK asset forfeiture: Nigerian property owners seek VAIDS intervention - PUNCH
Following the new United Kingdom’s regulation on ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders,’ Nigerians, who own property in the country have approached the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme for help.
Sources said the property owners on Friday crashed VAIDS’ hotlines with calls.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service and Ministry of Finance’s sources said on Sunday that the unprecedented level of calls was not unconnected with the new UK regulation on UWOs.
The sources disclosed that the confidential hotlines that were provided to enable the booking of appointments had received massive calls and frantic requests from taxpayers in the last 72 hours, asking for extension of time to complete their VAIDS declaration forms.
VAIDS allows Nigerian taxpayers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own property that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.
The UK government had last week introduced a new law that required foreign owners of properties in the country to explain the sources of their funds or risk forfeiting them to the government under UWOs.
According to the new law, UWOs can be obtained for any property or combination of properties valued at just £50,000, about N25m or more, for which the owner is unable to explain legal source of funds.
Sources said data already in the possession of the VAIDS office at the Federal Ministry of Finance revealed that many UK property owners had underpaid their taxes before transferring funds overseas to buy property.
“Concerted efforts are ongoing to restore the hotlines following the crash on Friday. Most of the calls received were from high net worth individuals, including company executives, bankers and even a governor. All seemed to be in panic over the prospect of losing their investments,” said a source within the VAIDS office.
The official said some of the apprehensive Nigerian property investors in the UK stormed the Federal Ministry of Finance last Friday without appointments, requesting to see the minister and also the head of VAIDS.
“Most of the enquiries were about seeking assurances from the government that the VAIDs programme could protect them from potential asset forfeiture to the UK government. Others requested to know if their names had appeared on the lists from overseas,” the source said.