Several large-sized brown paper wrappings containing a stash of foreign currency totalling $8.06 million was intercepted on the tarmac of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, the Nigerian Customs Service said Tuesday.
Hameed Ali, the customs comptroller-general, said at a press conference in Lagos that the money was found in a vehicle belonging to the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO).
One suspect, identified as Chimezie Okonkwo, who is the driver of the vehicle has been arrested and taken into custody for further investigation, Mr Ali said.
“From the day we seized this money, no bank has come to claim ownership. But our investigation will reveal the mystery behind the owners,” said Mr Ali.
He added that the arrest was made when customs operatives suspected illegal movement of persons at the ‘E’ Wing of the airport tarmac.
“Acting on credible information, the command operatives at about 1200 hours on 16 January 2020, intercepted illegal movement of foreign currency at the tarmac,” he said.
“The consignment packed in a coaster bus was loaded in six big Bagco bags.
“On Saturday, 18 January 2020, an inventory of the consignment was taken, and was witnessed by representatives of the Directorate of State Security, Customs Intelligence Unit, Anti-Money-Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Unit, Customs Police and the suspect.
“At the end of the inventory taking, a total number of 20 sealed wraps were opened, counted, re-seated and re-wrapped under video coverage from the beginning of the exercise to the end. The total amount intercepted stood at $8,065,612.”
He said the consignment has been kept in safe custody, while preliminary investigations have commenced on the seizure.
“We will update you as the investigations unfold” he added.
The Customs boss advised Nigerian travellers and those in business to declare the cash with them if they chose to carry such.
“The threshold remains $10,000 and I will like to give assurance that they have nothing to fear in the process.”
No connection with seized money – NAHCO
In a statement on Tuesday, the management of NAHCO said it had nothing to do with the seized funds.
“Our attention has been brought to a press conference earlier today by the Comptroller – General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hammed Alli (rtd) to the effect that a vehicle belonging to NAHCO was intercepted with some cash in foreign currencies as it conveyed the money to an aircraft at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos,” the agency said in a statement.
“We wish to state unequivocally that NAHCO as an organization 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 cooperate 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 added.