by Stanley Azuakola
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday confirmed that it had arrested a 24-year old suspect, Abubakar Tijani Sheriff, at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos for trying to smuggle out $7 million (N1.12 billion).
Sheriff is a bulk currency smuggler. He was arrested on Thursday for attempting to take the $7million of suspected laundered cash to Dubai on behalf of 20 Nigerians whom he has not fully named.
However some reports say that he has named at least one of those who sent him on errand after undergoing interrogation on Friday.
A statement by the head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, said the suspect was caught at the point of boarding.
The statement said: “The 24-year-old was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos en route Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He was apprehended at the point of boarding the plane by operatives of the Commission.
“When he was arrested, he declared that he had a total sum of $4.5million on him but thorough screening and search showed that he was actually carrying $7,049,444 (Seven million, Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars).
“He confessed that he was a courier for 20 individuals who hired him to courier the money for them to Dubai.
“Investigations by the EFCC showed that Sheriff is a regular traveller and one of several couriers of illegal cash suspected to be proceeds of crime. His claims in respect of his accomplices are still being investigated by the Commission.
“Travellers leaving the country are statutorily required to declare cash in excess of $10,000. However, it is not sufficient to declare excess cash, under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, the onus is on the person making the declaration to explain the source of the excess cash and the reason for the export.
“Experience has shown that bulk cash smuggling, the world over, is usually associated with proceeds of crime as legitimately earned funds are usually processed through the banking system.
“Our experience in the last few years indicates an emerging trend of bulk cash smuggling to Europe, Middle East and North America with the attendant consequence for capital flight.
“Some Nigerian citizens are routinely arrested at airports in Europe and North American for currency smuggling though no such arrests have been recorded in the Middle East. But in all cases, the money is lost as they are never repatriated back to the country.”