By Kingsley Omonobi, Evelyn Usman & Ifeayi Okolie
Controversy is currently trailing the seizure of property and cash belonging to a suspected kidnapper, Collins Ezenwa, popularly known as E-Money, who was killed during a gun battle with policemen attached to Imo State Command in January last year.
This followed allegations by widow of the late kidnap kingpin that operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, had converted her late husband’s property and cash to their personal use, as well as a report which went viral, accusing head of the unit, DCP Abbah Kyari, of illegally depleting late Ezenwa’s assets.
Late Ezenwa, 31, was a Police Corporal, until November 2017. He was alleged to have coordinated several kidnaps and robberies in Imo, Abia, Enugu and Rivers states and was on the verge of kidnapping a South African-based businessman, when he was confronted by the Police.
Thirteen of his property scattered across the South-East were traced by the IRT operatives. They included a hotel in Enugu State, seven others in Owerri and Okigwe areas of Imo State and one in Aba, Abia State.
Also, seven cars, two Sports Utility Vehicles, one Hilux truck, a commercial bus, two tipper-lorries and a trailer truck were recovered at several locations within the South-East, by the operatives.
He was nicknamed E-Money owing to what was described as his stupendous wealth and generosity.
However, an online medium quoted the Nigeria Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and Amnesty International of accusing the IRT of gross human rights abuses and illegal expropriation of suspected proceeds of crime.
The report alleged that De-Inglish Hotels and Resort in Enugu, owned by the deceased kidnapper and estimated at N220 million, was taken over by the IRT, adding that it had been receiving proceeds of lodging and other services in private bank accounts.
It further alleged that eight blocks of flats on 21, Edinburgh Road, New Layout, Enugu, which was also linked to late Ezenwa, was being managed by the police squad.
Furthermore, the report mentioned Tochukwu Okeke and Ozougwu Stanislaus , as account holders of two bank accounts which the NHRC alleged earnings from the hotel and flats were being paid into.
In a swift reaction to the allegations, Commander, IRT, DCP Abba Kyari, described them as unverified lies by widow of the deceased kidnapper.
Kyari said: “We have nothing to do with a private account carrying names of people from the South -East, flaunted by the kidnapper’s wife. In this BVN era, bank accounts can easily be investigated and cash movements and owners can easily be traced and arrested for questioning.
“They are all lies from the wife of a kidnap kingpin, who we refused to negotiate with. The family of the kidnapper begged to settle with us but we refused and they vowed to spend money to spoil our names, as all their efforts to transfer the case out of our office failed.
“They now went to a media outfit that is not ready to verify the authenticity of the stories from the kidnapper’s wife who jumped bail given to her on compassionate ground because of her baby.
“She has vowed to enjoy the proceeds of her late kidnapper husband’s crime as if there are no laws in this country. We are suing the media outfit for linking our names to some fictitious/unknown accounts carrying names of people from the South -East.
“I have never seen those accounts and they will tell the court why they are linking me to an account I know nothing about.
“Moreover, all the exhibits which included 13 houses, 13 vehicles and N100 million cash, we froze in the late kidnap kingpin’s bank account, using court order, are intact, while motion for their forfeiture to the Federal Government is before the Owerri High Court.
“We are not relenting. We are used to this type of baseless accusations/lies coming when uncompromising officers are handling cases of billionaire kidnappers like this. Everybody saw the lies from Evans billionaire kidnapper, his lawyers and wife.
“The moment you refuse to negotiate with them, they will sponsor lies against you in anger. Had we agreed to negotiate with the family of the dead kidnap kingpin, nobody would have heard of this case.
“We have nothing to hide, we want anybody or organisation to investigate this matter and see the truth.”
Meanwhile, sources at the IRT, disclosed yesterday, that operatives who were on E-Money’s trail before he was gunned down, had earlier apprehended him during a robbery operation in Owerri, Imo State, alongside some bankers and a real estate agent working for him.
The source explained that IRT operatives discovered that E-Money also had links to a notorious robbery gang which specialised in hijacking oil vessels on the high seas and selling off its products to waiting buyers.
It was gathered one of his friends identified simply as Onyekere, had advised him(E-money) to quit his police job and travel out of the country to avoid suspicion.
Vanguard learned that E-Money left his police job, travelled out of the country for weeks and when he returned, bought a hotel in Enugu and also made a deposit of N100 million into a fixed deposit account, to which his wife was also a signatory.
The source said: “We commenced our investigations into the activities of this criminal in October 2017, while he was a policeman, after one Emmanuel and David Ofong were kidnapped along Nsukka-Kogi Road, Enugu by a gang of kidnappers and a ransom of $2 million was paid for the release of one of the victims, David Ofong, while the kidnappers held on to Emmanuel Ofong, demanding for additional money.
“We went into the case and through the aid of advance technology we were able to establish that E-money was the man behind the kidnapping but we had difficulty arresting him then because he was always moving in and out of the country.
“Shockingly, we heard, in 2018 that he has been killed alongside two members of his gang. But since Chief Emmanuel Ofong, who he kidnapped was still missing, we continued our case with the hope of arresting other members of his gang.
“In the process, we arrested a banker working for him and he informed us that his wife had a fixed deposit account credited with N100 million. We also arrested a property agent, who assisted him in buying his property.”