By Eguono Odjegba
THE last is yet to be heard about the recent seizure of over $8million by the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, at the premises of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, as the alleged owner said the actual amount was $9million as against the total of $8.1 million declared by the Customs.
Vanguard also learnt that the owner has started reaching out to some people in the corridors of power for the release of the money.
Meanwhile, NAHCO Aviance, operators of the MMIA cargo handling services, has denied involvement in the matter, and said it is ready and willing to partner with Customs and other relevant government agencies interested in identifying the owner of the questionable money.
Findings by Vanguard Maritime Report also revealed that contrary to claim by the Customs that a suspect arrested in connection with the alleged movement of foreign currency is under its custody, impeccable sources disclosed that the said suspect has since been released following intervention by the owner of the money.
Our top impeccable source, who spoke with our reporter in confidence hinted that the issue is been sorted out between Customs and the owner of the money.
He said, “You can be doing your report but the money in question belongs to a VIP in the ruling party, what are you going to do to him?
“Let me tell you, the arrest was a mistake, the Customs has been contacted and the matter is being resolved amicably. Let me also tell you that he is saying his money is $9million; so there are issues, but it is being resolved. The press conference was not necessary, all the stakeholders are part of the government and people are not supposed to rock the boat.”
During a press briefing on the matter, Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, Rtd, said travellers are by law required to declare any physical cash in excess of $10,000 or it’s equivalent in any other currencies or monetary instruments”, adding the consignment which was packed in a coaster bus belonging to NAHCO Aviance was loaded in six bags and were found not to have been declared at any approved point of entry or exit where voluntary declarations are recorded and maintained.
“One suspect, the driver of the bus, Chimezie Okonkwo, was immediately arrested and taken into custody with the intercepted consignment. On Saturday, 18th of January, 2020, an inventory of the consignment was taken and was witnessed by representatives of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), Customs Intelligence Unit, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Unit, Customs Police and the suspect.
“At the end of the inventory, a total number of 20 sealed wraps of Bagco bags were opened, counted, re-sealed and re-wrapped under video coverage from the beginning of the exercise to the end, and the total amount intercepted stood at $8,065,612 only.
“The consignment remains in safe custody while preliminary investigations have commenced on the seizures.”
NCS said the matter have been transferred to the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, without giving a hint of the outcome of its investigation.
When the Customs Area Controller, MMIA Lagos, Comptroller Wale Adeniyi, was contacted for a reaction over claim of $9million and the release of the suspect, he said:
“The sum of $8,065,612 was intercepted. That was the amount announced by the CG. Suspect was arrested with the exhibit on Thursday 16 January. He was in our custody till Friday 24th January when he was transferred to Abuja.”