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President Buhari signs Amendment to Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme

President Muhammadu Buhari has signed an amendment to Executive Order 008 on the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS), to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the order originally signed in October 2018, he said Friday.

“VOARS grants Nigerians and Nigerian entitles, who have defaulted in declaration of offshore assets, the opportunity to voluntarily declare and regularize these assets,” said President Buhari. “There will be severe penalties for defaulters, and for the financial institutions that enable them.”

The Amendment to the Executive Order 008 was signed by President Buhari on May 20.

The order was originally signed in 2018 to help Nigeria collect taxes on offshore assets by providing an avenue for defaulters to voluntarily declare their foreign assets and pay a one-time levy of 35% in order to avoid penalties for evasion.

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Similar to the 2017 Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), the VOARS seeks to reduce corruption by providing a platform for transparency.

The Executive Order 008 as amended mandated the Attorney General of the Federation to set up and implement a Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme, said Umar Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

The VOARS gives all relevant persons and their intermediaries who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets the opportunity to voluntarily declare and regularize their offshore assets, subject to fulfilment of the terms and conditions stipulated in the Order and other subsequent regulations, Gwandu said.

VOARS will work closely with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) which has worldwide access to relevant financial information, in order to ensure seamless exchange of information.

Under the amended order, domestic or foreign banks, asset managers or intermediaries that cooperates with defaulters, enabling them to conceal offshore assets and obligations pertaining to them shall are liable to pay to FGN a penalty on the total of such offshore assets, in addition to other penalties provided for under Nigerian laws or laws of foreign countries from which Nigeria can benefit.

“FGN hopes that relevant persons amongst Nigerians, Nigerian entities and their intermediaries will seize the opportunity provided by VOARS to declare and regularize their offshore assets before it is too late,” he said.

Gwandu said relevant persons who voluntarily declare their offshore assets and pay the stipulated levy to FGN will receive compliance certificates which allows them to use their residual assets freely without hindrance.

“The recoveries accruing to FGN will be used for essential infrastructure development for benefit of Nigerians,” he said.

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