In what seems to be a worrisome trend, another passenger has been arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos while trying to travel out of the country with $320,000.
The Airport Command of Nigeria Customs Service announced the arrest on Monday of the passenger identified as Onwuekwe Anthony Chidi aboard a Qatar Airways flight bound for Doha, in the Gulf region.
Chidi was said to be checking in at the airline's desk, when he declared the money but he was arrested as he could not explain the source of the currency as well as show adequate proof of his business to justify being in possession of such a huge amount.
The passenger and the money have been handed over to officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigations, a statement from the Customs added.
According to the statement signed by the Customs Area Controller, Mr. Eporwei Charles, "About 1300 hours on November 19, 2012, a passenger by name Onwuekwe Anthony Chidi, with passport number A04086671, was checking in on Qatar Airways. He declared the sum of three hundred and twenty thousand dollars ($320,000) on both forms CDFIA and CDFIB but could not explain the source of the currency nor show adequate proof of his business to the Customs officer at the currency desk at the 'E' wing departure hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos."
Charles said it had become imperative for Customs at the airport to comply with government regulations as it affects foreign exchange in line with the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C 45 LFN 2004 as amended.
He explained that since September 24, 2012 when the office received a letter from the EFCC, it had put in place a collaborative working arrangement to ensure that officers are vigilant to detect those trying to use the international airport as a route for money laundering.
He added that the efforts have been paying off as many passengers caught were stopped from travelling and handed over to the EFCC.
"On September 27, 2012, two passengers - Mrs Hassan Ganiyat Oloruntoyin and Mr Oteh Prince Eminike - were barred from boarding at the currency declaration desk when they were unable to produce evidence of purchase of $270,000 and $1,040,000 respectively and they were subsequently handed over to the EFCC.
"Also, on September 2012, one Sheriff Abubakar Tijani was found with $4.5 million and was also handed over to the EFCC, Lagos Liaison Office, which works in tandem with the currency seat officer at the Lagos international Airport for further necessary action
"Mr Igweadiani John Chinedu was arrested on October 3, 2012 with two hundred and eighty three thousand dollars ($283,000), due to his failure to satisfactorily explain the source of the money, ownership and purpose of fund," he added.
He also disclosed that on October 20, 2012 at the "D" wing section of the Nigeria Customs Service Currency Screening Desk, a Customs officer of the currency seat "accosted a Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria official, Mr. Adetula A. A. with a bag containing $1.4 million which was not declared."
The FAAN official may have helped the owner of the money to "cross the cargo (the foreign currency)" through the scanning machines to avoid the screening by the security officials. But his long and anxious wait for the owner, after "crossing" the money betrayed him, prompting the suspicion that led to his arrest.
In another incident, one Mr. Osemwegie Billy was on October 26, 2012, found with $599,200.
Also, on November 7, 2012, Mr. Chukwuonu Nnaemeka John was arrested with $137,435, although he declared $70,000 to Customs officials.
Investigations revealed that he was travelling to China with textbooks, which had been published in Nigeria with the purpose of reprinting them in China and importing them to Nigeria for mass sales.
"Today, I am happy to inform that the area command has put in place measures to hand over the passenger to officials of EFCC for further investigation," the Customs boss said.