Sunday , May 28 2023
Essex University (pictured above) received £5.4million in cash from students. The paper money was accepted by at least 49 universities in the UK spanning the past five years

UK Universities accused of aiding money laundering by accepting fees in cash from Nigerian Students

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Universities in the United Kingdom have been accused of aiding money launderers after letting students from ‘high-risk’ countries pay £52million of fees in cash.

The paper money from students was accepted by at least 49 universities in the UK spanning the past five years, with China noted as the country whose students paid the most cash.

Since 2015, universities accepted £1.5million from Nigerian students, £7.7million from Chinese students, followed by £1.8million from Indian students and £1.2million from Pakistani students, according to The Times‘ freedom of information request.

Essex University received £5.4million in notes, followed by Manchester University at £5million, Surrey at £3.2million, Wolverhampton at £2.8million and Nottingham at £1.8million.

Security experts branded the move a ‘welcome mat for kleptocrats’, saying universities that accept cash are highly at risk of concealing the proceeds of crime.

Durham University also took £440,000, with £200,000 being paid by Chinese students, and Strathclyde University in Glasgow received £700,000 in cash.

Matthew Page, a fellow at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said: ‘Any educational institution that accepts cash payments is essentially putting out a welcome mat for the world’s kleptocrats and money launderers.

‘Universities that accept cash are at high risk of laundering the proceeds of crime, corruption and other illicit activities.’

Chris Greany, a UK ex-national coordinator for economic crime, said: ‘It is known that cash payments from many of the countries mentioned here are sometimes linked to money laundering and other criminal enterprises, so cash-based payments need proper scrutiny and accountability, but there is no good reason for them at all.’

He questioned why cash payments are still acceptable for universities, pointing out that bank notes can no longer be used to buy a car, flight or hotel room.

In 2019, the niece of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was forced to give up the contents of her UK bank account after receiving £150,000 from relatives while studying in London.

Investigators found that Aniseh Chawkat, aged 22 at the time, who rented a flat in the capital for more than £60,000 per year, benefited from 56 cash deposits into her Barclays account in 2017 and 2018.

Ms Chawkat was not personally accused of any wrongdoing.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered that the payments were made at branches of the bank across England, as a way of getting around EU sanctions to restrict funds from the Syrian regime.

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About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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