The identities of individuals allegedly sponsoring a suspected currency trafficker, Abubakar Tijjani Sheriff, who was arrested while attempting to smuggle $7million cash (about N1.1billion) out of the country, are now beginning to emerge. LEADERSHIP can now authoritatively report that one of the sponsors (names withheld) gave $2.8million cash out of the said $7million to Sheriff for trafficking to Dubai.
A source within the EFCC told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the suspect had made a useful statement that would enable the commission unravel the other individuals that were using Sheriff as front for illegal currency trafficking.
The source further confided in our correspondent that the details of the said sponsor's status would not be made public for now, as he insisted that the development might affect the course of further investigation on the matter.
He added that the suspect was cooperating with the anti-graft agency in its bid to apprehend other sponsors.
He said, "I can tell you that the suspect (Sheriff) has revealed that $2.8million out of the $7million cash belongs to the said sponsor. He has confessed that he is a courier for 20 individuals who hired him to courier the money for them to Dubai. He is still assisting investigators to determine these individuals.
"I will not be able to give you further details on the status of the said suspect and other sponsors. This is because we are closing in on them and we don't want to do anything that will enable them to escape. The EFCC operatives are working on the suspect's confession and I can tell you that appreciable progress is being made in this regard."
The 24-year-old suspect was picked up on Thursday, last week, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos en route Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at the point of boarding the plane.
Meanwhile, four suspects have been arrested and are currently being quizzed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over an attempt to export $9million cash out of the country.
LEADERSHIP exclusively gathered that the suspects were arrested separately at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
Checks revealed that, two days after the arrest of Sheriff, the anti-graft agency similarly apprehended one Nkem Sebastian for attempting to smuggle $286,000 out of the country. He was arrested as he prepared to board a plane to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, en route China.
When the money was discovered, Sebastian disclosed that he had only $200,000 on him. But a search revealed that he was actually carrying $286,000.
Under-declaring cash at the entry and exit points in the country are a criminal offence and the person making the declaration risks losing 25 per cent of the money under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2012.
On interrogation, Sebastian claimed that he was given the money by one Konja for distribution to unnamed recipients in China. He claimed not to know the home of Konja, saying that they always met at the airport where he handed him the consignment to deliver outside Nigeria.
The commission had, on September 22, arrested one Prince Oteh Emenike with N996, 040 cash at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Unlike the others, Emenike, who was to board a China-bound Ethiopian Airline, fully disclosed the money. He claimed the money was given to him to deliver to some traders in China.
But the latest in the string of arrests over bulk cash smuggling, LEADERSHIP can now report, was at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, where operatives of the EFCC this Sunday arrested one Alhaji Tasiu Ilu Kura, a businessman, with $700,000 (about N112million). The suspect, who hails from Kura local government area in Kano State, was arrested en route Dubai with a valid Niger Republic passport (07PC61816).
Three other suspects were equally arrested for failing to declare the foreign exchange on them. They are Sadi Umar Abdurahman, Nasir Sanni Ali and Haruna Inuousa Murtala.
According to the EFCC source, an investigation into the source of the funds and what it was meant for was ongoing.