The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday announced the seizure of $8.6 million (equivalent of N2.9 billion) cash at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.
The cash was loaded in six Bagco bags discovered in a bus operated by the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), apparently in the process of being smuggled out of the country.
The driver of the bus, Chimezie Okonkwo, was arrested and taken into custody with the intercepted consignment.
NAHCO, a ground handling service provider, has dissociated self from the attempt at laundering the cash and offered to assist in the investigation.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), told reporters in Lagos that the consignment was intercepted at about 1200hrs on January 16, 2020 at the E-Wing Tarmac of the international airport.
The next day, Saturday, January 18, 2020, Customs took an inventory of the consignment in the presence of the Directorate of State Services (DSS), Customs intelligence unit, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing unit, Customs police and the suspect where the sum was confirmed.
Ali said that the command was able to intercept the sum through credible information gathered on the day the consignment was supposed to be moved out of the country.
He explained further that the service was conducting investigation into the consignment, the real owners and cohorts in the attempted smuggling, adding that after thorough investigation, the fund and the arrested suspect would be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further interrogation.
He said that names were written on each wraps of money, which were in $100 denomination.
He, however, noted that it was not a crime to ferry money out of the country, but noted that any amount of money in excess of $10,000 must be declared to Customs by the owners.
Meanwhile, NAHCO, in its reaction, said the ground handling company does not condone any form of criminal act.
“We wish to state unequivocally that NAHCO as an organisation 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 co-operate 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 read in part.