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Bankers warehouse outraged : EFCC wrongly seized $2.8m at Enugu Airport

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… Demands release of its employees, apology from anti-graft agency

By Wale Akinola

Bankers Warehouse Ltd., a company duly licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to carry out cash/asset movement and currency processing, said, yesterday, that the $2.8 million intercepted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Enugu Airport on Thursday was wrongly seized.

EFCC operatives

In a statement, yesterday, the firm said the seizure happened while providing a legitimate currency movement for one of the bank-clients from Onitsha to its branch in Lagos, saying that its couriers were stopped at the Enugu Airport, detained and interrogated by the EFCC despite providing identification details.

“The documents provided also included a covering note from the bank, authorising the team to move the consignment, which is the standard practice”, the firm said.

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“We hereby state emphatically that the movement of this currency was a legitimate exercise being carried out on behalf of a legitimate financial institution”.

The statement was a follow-up to the letter the Bankers Warehouse Ltd  wrote to the CBN to complain about the $2.8m seizure and ask for its intervention immediately the incident happened on Thursday.

In the letter addressed to the CBN Deputy Governor and titled, ‘EFCC Confiscation of Goods in Transit with Bankers Warehouse’, the firm said it was facing a challenge with one of the security agencies (EFCC) “who detained our couriers, yesterday evening, while attempting to board a flight from Enugu to Lagos, conveying currency on behalf of Union Bank.”

“They were transporting US Dollars”, the firm, in the letter signed by Dr. Lawrence Ijebor, its BW Head of Operations, said.

It went on: “When questioned, they presented their identity cards, identifying themselves as Bankers Warehouse employees on official CIT movement and also provided the letter of authority issued by the bank, covering that movement.

“Despite the information provided, the EFCC insisted on detaining our employees, taking possession of our goods and threatening to confiscate the currency , without making themselves available to our senior managers, or agencies familiar with our movements”.

It cited an article in Daily Trust Online, “as well as the EFCC website, where our staff have been paraded as suspected money launderers, exposing the identity of our client and portraying our company in not just a negative, but criminal light”.

“We seek your intervention as our regulator to address this issue of constant harassment of our staff by security agencies, which constitutes a risk that could threaten the lives and safety of our employees and the cargo they are tasked with conveying.

“Also kindly recall that the CBN had previously called a meeting of stakeholders regarding this issue in the past. It may be prudent to engage the stakeholders, once again, to provide clarity on the legitimacy, coverage and mode of operations of registered CIT operators”.

Our employers are not criminals’

In the statement issued, yesterday, Bankers Warehouse said: “ We emphasize that our employees are in no way criminals, carrying out any act of illegality as the EFCC has tried to portray. The young men whose character and reputation have been deliberately soiled by the EFCC operatives were conducting their legitimate duties as requested by a bank customer of our company.

“We request for the swift and immediate release of our employees and our customer’s currency, both detained without proper cause.

“We also demand an immediate retraction by the EFCC and an apology issued to our company and our employees whose images have been maligned. Our client who has been unfairly exposed and accused of implied illegality, and whose money is still being improperly held by the EFCC operatives, deserve a very special apology for the disclosure of their business and damage done to their image.”

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