Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is now the favorite destination of Nigerians, smuggling out forex, either stolen or hard earned, out of Nigeria.
All recent cases of forex smuggling uncovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, cases of people smuggling out forex or people under-declaring forex in their possession, involved people Dubai or Asia-bound.
The latest was the arrest by the EFCC of two persons attempting to smuggle more than $238,858 ( two hundred and thirty eight thousand, eight hundred and fifty eight United States Dollars) out of the country through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
One of the suspects, Abdulrasheed Ibrahim was nabbed on Wednesday November 7 as he prepared to board a Dubai, the United Arab Emirates bound Ethiopian Airline.
A total of $188,858 (one hundred and eighty eight thousand, eight hundred and fifty eight United States Dollars) was found on him. He had declared the sum of forty five thousand USD ($45,000) only for a search on him to reveal additional $143, 858.
Further search revealed that he was carrying forty British Pounds and 5753grams of solid gold worth thirty four million five hundred and eighteen thousand naira (N34, 518,000).
The suspect is still being interrogated
The second suspect, Hyginus Ezedimbu was apprehended at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on November 3 as he prepared to board an Ethiopian Airline on his way to China.
He was caught with $50,000 but he declared $49,971.
Apart from under declaring the money in his possession, Ezedimbu could also not explain the ownership of the money, nor was he able to produce the receipt with which he purportedly purchased the forex from a Bureau De Change.
Musa Adamu operator of Majia Bureau de Change, Abuja, who purportedly sold the currency to Ezedimbu has been questioned even as the suspect has been release on administrative bail, pending the conclusion of investigation.
The arrest of the duo comes on the heels of similar arrests at two of the nation’s other major gateway, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano.
Abubakar Tijani Sheriff, who has since been convicted by a Federal High Court in Lagos, was arrested on September 27, 2012 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport en route Dubai, United Arab Emirates for attempting to smuggle $7million out of the country.
When he was arrested, he declared that he had only $4.5million on him but thorough search showed that he was actually carrying $7,049,444 (Seven million, Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars).
Two days after Sheriff’s arrest, 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 for Dubai, the United 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.On Sunday, September 30, 2012 operatives of the Commission arrested one Alhaji Tasiu Ilu Kura, a businessman with $700,000 (about N112m) at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
The suspect who hails from Kura Local Government in Kano State, was arrested en route Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Under declaring cash at entry and exit points in the country is a criminal offence and the person making the declaration risks losing 25 percent of the money not declared or a two year jail term; or both.
The Nigeria Customs Service has also arrested a passenger at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos for being in possession of 137,435 dollars (about N21.3 million).
Mr Charles Edike, the Customs Area Controller, Airport Customs Command, who disclosed this at a news conference on Thursday, said the suspect was arrested on November 7.
The customs boss said that the suspect was about travelling to China with textbooks published in Nigeria with the purpose of re-importing the books back to Nigeria.
Edike said that the passenger only declared 70,000 dollars, adding that “when customs officials carried out searches on the textbooks, they discovered that 67,437 dollars was not declared by the passenger’’.
He said that the area command would hand over the passenger to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation.
Edike said that it had become imperative for customs officials at the airport to comply with the Federal Government’s regulations “as it affects foreign exchange in line with the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C 45 LFN 2004 as amended’’.
The Customs boss explained that since Sept. 24, 2012, when the command received a letter from the EFCC, it had put in place a collaborative working arrangement with its currency declaration officers at the international wing of the airport.
He explained that the collaborative efforts had been paying off as many passengers had been restrained from travelling and handed over to the EFCC over money laundering offences.
On September 27, 2012, two persons were refused boarding when they could not produce at the currency declaration desk evidence of purchase of 270,000 dollars and 1,040,000 dollars respectively.
“ They were subsequently handed over to the EFCC,’’ Dike said.