The Lagos State Police Command has said it has recovered eight stolen vehicles from a member of a syndicate specializing in trans-border crime and stealing vehicles in Lagos and moving them to Ogun and neighbouring countries to sell.
In a statement on Sunday, the police said officers of the Rapid Response Squad, who were working on a reported case of stolen Toyota Corolla from where it was parked in Ikeja Business District, Lagos, tracked the vehicle on Thursday night to a compound in Kobape, Abeokuta, belonging to a car dealer.
It was gathered that the Toyota Corolla, grey, 2004 model with registration number, KRD 759, belonging to Olaitan Lawal, was removed from the car park during a church programme at Ikeja, at about 6:00 p.m. on Thursday before it was found around 1:00 a.m. on Friday.
“I took my car to the church and I parked it at the space designated for parking,” the police quoted Mrs. Lawal as saying.
“After the church service, I went back to pick my car to go home, but I couldn’t find the car.
“Immediately, I called Lagos emergency line on 112 and I reported to the representative. As if that was not enough, I went straight to Area F in Ikeja, to equally lodge the complaint.”
At the police station, Mrs. Lawal said the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, connected her to the Commander of RRS, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu, to help her with the case.
“The DPO also gave me the Commander’s phone number, and, when I called him, he assured me that my car would be found,” said Mrs. Lawal.
“By this time, it was around 9:00 p.m. at night. At home, I couldn’t sleep until around, 12:15 a.m. after midnight when I saw the Commander’s call requesting that I describe my car. I gave him, and he told me that he had found my car in somewhere in Abeokuta. I couldn’t believe my ears. In about six hours interval, my car was found.”
The police said the RRS surveillance team moved to Abeokuta that same night which led to the arrest of two prime suspects who had confessed their connections with the recovered Corolla and seven other stolen cars currently at the RRS headquarters.
The suspects, Samuel Adebeshin, the receiver of the stolen vehicles, who lives at 13 Kobape Road, Abeokuta, and an accomplice, Adeyemi Kamoru, repeatedly maintained that the eight vehicles were all stolen at different locations in Lagos, according to the police.
“I have been in auto business for thirty years,” the police quoted Mr. Adebeshin, 56, as saying in his confessional statement.
“I know all these cars brought to me were all stolen cars but I thought I was safe enough here in my palatial compound.
He said he met Mr. Adeyemi, who acted as a middleman, about two years ago.
“He was the middleman between me and the car thieves,” Mr. Adebeshin said.
“He was the one who introduced Alhaji Tajudeen and one honourable, both still at large, to me as car dealers and crossers from Benin Republic.
“Later on, I discovered they were car snatchers from Lagos. At this point, I couldn’t back out from the deal. Anytime they bring cars to me, it was Adeyemi who I give money to pay them because I didn’t want people to identify me with them.”
Mr. Adebeshin said he bought a Honda from his accomplices for N300,000 in 2014, although the vehicle’s market value at the time was N900,000.
“The money was given to Adeyemi. I later sold the car for Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira six months after,” he said.
“Also, in the month of January 2015, I bought another Honda Accord 2000 model from them again; I also paid the thieves through our middleman, Adeyemi.”
The suspect, who is married with two wives and seven children, noted that he had built two houses, two flats and an 8-room bungalow from his business.
“I built my first house, an 8 room-bungalow in 2006, and the second one, two flats in 2015 where I keep the stolen vehicles as they arrive from Lagos,” he said.
“Once they bring the cars for me, we would repaint it, change their number plates and chassis numbers, and take them to neighbouring countries for sale.
“Occasionally, I sold to people at my car mart, S. Aro Motors situated at 1, Kuto Road, Isabo, Abeokuta. On this penultimate day, at about 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Adeyemi called me that our boys have brought another Toyota Corolla for sale.
“By this time, I wasn’t at home, but I instructed my first son to open gate for them. The car was parked in my premises, awaiting the usual refurbishment and painting.
“However, at about 12:30 a.m. a team of policemen came to my house and asked me to give account of the Toyota Corolla car. I opened up to them. I told them that all those involved are Adeyemi, Alhaji Tajudeen Bello and Honourable. They brought all those cars to me. I took the Police to Adeyemi’s residence where he was arrested while others were still at large.”
On his part, Mr. Adeyemi said poverty pushed him into crime.
“I met Adebeshin some years back,” the police quoted Mr. Adeyemi, 50, as saying.
“Before now, I do assist him to cross vehicle from Benin to Nigeria. Anytime those boys went for operation and succeeded, they will call me, and I will inform him that we have another car.
“And I will drive the car to his premises in Kobape where buyers usually come to buy them.”
Mr. Adeyemi said he received N30,000 after every deal.
“On this day, one of the car snatchers called me to meet them at K. interchange. On getting there, I found out they have another stolen car.
“I led them from Sagamu interchange to Adebesin’s house. Alhaji drove the stolen car, while Bello drove Pontiac black colour. This was the first time I will be arrested in connection with stolen cars. It was poverty and frustration that led me to this criminal act.”
The other seven vehicles recovered from Adebeshin’s compound were Mercedes Benz 230; Acura MDX; Murano, Volkswagen Passat station wagon, Renault, Pontiac and Toyota Camry.
Dolapo Badmus, the Lagos State Police spokesperson, said the suspects are helping the police with investigations, adding that efforts are ongoing to arrest other fleeing members of the syndicate.