Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested two suspected drug traffickers for allegedly laundering hard currencies estimated at about N175m from Greece and Austria.
It was learnt that the suspects – Edos Nicholas and Hallowell Lovely – were arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport during the screening of passengers onboard a Turkish flight.
Punch Metro gathered that Nicholas was found in possession of €279,190, while $30,000 and £46,450 were recovered from Lovely. They reportedly concealed the sums inside envelopes and shoes.
Nicholas, who claimed to be working in a bakery in Austria, told investigators that several people had given him the money abroad for onward delivery to their relatives in Nigeria.
The suspect said, “The money does not belong to me. It was given to me by different people in Europe to give to their relatives. I have been living in Vienna, Austria, for over 15 years.”
The second suspect, Lovely, said, “I live in Athens and I work in an African shop. I have lived there for 12 years. The money belongs to many people and some of them are my friends.”
The NDLEA commander at the MMIA, Ahmadu Garba, said the money was found during routine search of passengers.
“We discovered €325,640 and $30,000 during the inward screening of passengers on a Turkish flight. Edos Nicholas was found in possession of €279,190 and Hallowell Lovely was found in possession of £46,450 and $30,000 – about N175m (parallel market) in all,” he said.
However, the NDLEA Chairman, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (retd.), said the sums were illicitly laundered, adding that the director of Assets and Financial Investigation of the agency, Mrs. Victoria Egbase, had taken over the investigation.
He said, “This is a suspected case of money laundering. Criminal groups seek to conceal the origin of illegally obtained money. It is pertinent therefore for us to trace the origin of the money and prevent the introduction of criminal funds into the economy. Consequently, I have directed that the case be meticulously investigated.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that both suspects are frequent travellers who are working with international drug trafficking organisations.
Besides, their sources of income must be verified. The cases shall be properly investigated and necessary action taken as laundered funds could be used to finance terrorism and distort the economy, among others.”