by Reuben Daba
On Saturday, an official of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Akinyele Adetula, was apprehended by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at the Murtala Mohammed Airport with $1.4m (N218m).
Adetula was able to pass through Nigeria Customs Service and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency security checks because he was wearing his identity card and so did not draw any suspicion.
According to the head of operations, EFCC, Iliyasu Kwarbai, “The suspect is a FAAN security guard. He wore his tag and was thus able to move freely in the airport without drawing suspicion. He was carrying a bag and it went through the scanner.
“The suspect passed through NDLEA and Customs and he went to the waiting area; but he started making phone calls instead of proceeding to board his flight. We accosted him and noticed that his bag was heavy.
“When we searched him, we saw the large sum of money, which he said did not belong to him and that he was only trying to telephone the owner who never showed up.”
The money was given to Adetula by one Ifeanyi Urama, a bureau de change operator who also doubles as clearing and forwarding agent. Urama already has a history with the EFCC, as he was only recently granted bail by the commission after he was arrested with $996,000 (N155m).
Urama allegedly gave Adetula the money, which belonged to a yet-to-be-identified person and Adetula was to help the unknown person to get the money past security.
Adetula, an indigene of Ondo state, who claims to have worked for FAAN for over five years, said he was promised N10,000 if he could successfully get past security. He claimed that it was his first time of committing such a crime.
He said, “Ifeanyi called me in the morning and told me to help him to take the bag and gave me someone’s phone number and told me to call the person once I get to the area where the airplane would board.
“I didn’t know the exact amount, but I knew the money was much. I would have informed authorities of the amount of money I was carrying but I was carried away by the phone call I was receiving.”
The EFCC operations head said that money launderers had begun to devise new means of beating security due to frequent arrests by the commission. He expressed surprised that the suspect was able to pass the bag through the scanner without security agents raising the alarm.
By law, anyone attempting to travel with over $10,000 (N1.56m) cash must inform security agents at the airport and explain his/her source of livelihood.
Kwarbai noted that within a period of three weeks, the commission had seized over $10.2m (N1.6bn) in Lagos alone.
“We appeal to airport officials and security agents to report cases of money laundering to the commission, as this is clearly economic sabotage,” he said.