Men of Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) have intercepted US$8.061Million from suspected currency traffickers.
Addressing newsmen yesterday, the Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) said the foreign currency was intercepted in a bus belonging to the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) bus at the airport tarmac.
He informed that one suspect, the driver of the Bus, Chimezie Okonkwo was arrested and taken into custody with the intercepted consignment while adding that after preliminary investigations, the money will be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation.
The Customs CG also maintained that the value of the threshold in Nigeria is equivalent of $10,000, while adding that all travelers in and out of Nigeria, must declare any physical cash in excess of this threshold of $10,000 or equivalent of other currencies or monetary instruments.
Explaining further, he said, "the question is often asked, why do Customs or any agency of government need to know if a private person or company is taking out monies for their personal business out of the country. It is for the reason that illegal criminal activities like international terrorism, drug smuggling, arms proliferation are financed by illicit cash movements outside the recognized financial systems. Proceeds from other criminal activities like corrupt enrichments from public treasury are similarly siphoned out of the country in cash.
He told journalists that, "to enforce compliance with the monitoring of cross border cash movement, registers are maintained at all approved points of entry and exit, where voluntary declarations are recorded and maintained. The declarations are then followed up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ascertain any possible link between the cash movers and criminal networks. At the Murtala Mohammed Airport, the Command put in place additional measures to monitor the implementation of the anti-money laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing operation. These measures include surveillance at the arrival and departure halls, increased patrols at the tarmac and cultivation of intelligence around its area of responsibility,”.
"Acting on such credible information, the command operatives at about 1200 hrs on 16 January 2020, intercepted illegal movement of foreign currency at the ‘E' wing of the Tarmac. The consignment packed in a coaster Bus was loaded in six big bagco bags. One suspect, the driver of the bus, Chimezie Okonkwo was arrested and taken into custody with the intercepted consignment.
"On Saturday, 18 January 2020, an inventory of the consignment was taken, and was witnessed by representatives of the Directorate of State Security, Customs Intelligence Unit, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Unit, Customs Police and the suspect.
"At the end of the inventory taking, a total number of 20 Sealed wraps were opened, counted, re-sealed and re-wrapped under video coverage from the beginning of the exercise to the end. The total intercepted stood at $8,065, 612 only”, the Customs boss confirmed.
NAHCO Denies Ownership of $8M
The Management of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO Aviance) has debunked allegation by the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (retired), linking it to the sum of $8.6million found at the tarmac of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport lkeja Lagos by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service.
A statement attributed to the cargo handling company said "Our attention has been brought to a press conference earlier today by the Comptroller – General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hammed Alli (rtd) to the effect that a vehicle belonging to NAHCO was intercepted with some cash in foreign currencies as it conveyed the money to an aircraft at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
"We wish to state unequivocally that NAHCO as an organization has no connection whatsoever with this alleged act.
"The Company has initiated contact with the Nigerian Customs Service’ hierarchy to provide it with details of this incident.
"As a responsible corporate organisation, NAHCO will cooperate with all regulators, agencies and other stakeholders in not only finding out the truth about this unfortunate incident, but also rooting out malpractices in the sector.
"The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company does not condone irresponsible and criminal behaviour. The Company takes seriously the trust of its esteemed clients, partners and other stakeholders, both local and international, and will do everything to protect that trust", the statement