The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, says it on Thursday arrested a bulk currency smuggler, one Abubakar Tijani Sheriff for attempting to smuggle $7million (about N1.101billion) out of the country.
According to a statement by the agency’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, the 24-year-old was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos en route Dubai , United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Uwujaren said the suspect had escaped security scrutiny from other agencies at the airport but was apprehended at the point of boarding the plane by operatives of the Commission.
When he was arrested, he declared that he had a total sum of $4.5million on him but a thorough screening and search showed that he was actually carrying $7,049,444 (Seven million, Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars).
He reportedly confessed that he was a courier for twenty individuals who hired him to courier the money for them to Dubai .
Investigations by the EFCC showed that Mr. Sheriff is a regular traveller and one of several couriers of illegal cash suspected to be proceeds of crime. The Commission is still investigating his claims in respect of his accomplices.
Travellers leaving the country are statutorily required to declare cash in excess of $10,000. However, it is not sufficient to declare excess cash, under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, the onus is on the person making the declaration to explain the source of the excess cash and the reason for the export.
The commission said its experience had shown that bulk cash smuggling, the world over, are usually associated with proceeds of crime as legitimately earned funds are usually processed through the banking system.
“Our experience in the last few years indicates an emerging trend of bulk cash smuggling to Europe, Middle East and North America with the attendant consequence for capital flight. Some Nigerian citizens are routinely arrested at airports in Europe and North American for currency smuggling though no such arrests have been recorded in the Middle East,” the statement said.
“But in all cases, the money is lost as they are never repatriated back to the country.”
The commission therefore warned travellers who for any reason want to move bulk cash out of the country to do so through the banking system or be prepared to declare it and explain the source of the money.
Meanwhile, the suspect is being detained at the EFCC’s holding facility in Lagos pending his arraignment in court.