EFCC insists on investigating transaction
Following the confiscation of $2.8 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which it claimed to be laundered funds, Bankers Warehouse Limited, which moved the currency on behalf of Union Bank, has said transporting the funds through its couriers was not only legitimate, but also a normal business operation.
But the EFCC has said it would continue with its investigation of the matter and that it is after this it would determine the next line of action as far as the matter is concerned.
In a letter, signed by its Head of Operations, Dr. Lawrence Ijebor, which was addressed to the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, Bankers Warehouse, said the two men, namely, Ighoh Augustine and Ezekwe Emmanuel, paraded by the EFCC as suspected money launderers, were staff of the company, who were on official CIT (cash in transit) movement, covered by a letter of authority issued by Union Bank. According to the company, the men were paraded and detained despite identifying themselves as employees of Bankers Warehouse with the identity cards.
“We wish to convey to you that once again, we are facing a challenge with one of the security agencies (this time the EFCC), who detained our couriers yesterday evening while attempting to board an Arik flight from Enugu to Lagos, conveying currency on behalf of Union Bank. They were transporting US Dollar.
“When questioned, they presented their identity cards, identifying themselves as Bankers Warehouse employees on official CIT movement and also provided letter of authority issued by the bank, covering that movement. Despite the information provided, the EFCC insisted on detaining our employees, taking possession of our goods and threatening to confiscate the currency, without making themselves available to our senior managers, or other agencies familiar with our movements,” the letter titled, EFCC Confiscation of Goods in Transit with Bankers Warehouse, read.
“This evening, our attention has been drawn to an article in Daily Trust Online, as well as the EFCC website https://efccnigeria.org, where our staff have been paraded as suspected money launderers, exposing the identity of our client and portraying our company in no just negative, but criminal light,” it added.
$2.8M SEIZED FUND: UNION BANK CLAIMS OWNERSHIP
Bankers Warehouse therefore sought the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria to address the “issue of constant harassment” of its staff by security agencies, which “constitutes a risk that could threaten the lives and safety of our employees and the cargo they are tasked with conveying.”
“And also kindly recall that the CBN had previously called a meeting of stakeholders regarding the issue in the past. It may be prudent to engage stakeholders again, to provide clarity on the legitimacy, coverage and mode of operations of registered CIT operators,” the company added in the letter.
The EFCC had on Friday said its operatives arrested two men with the sum of $2.8m suspected to be laundered funds. The two men who are staff of Bankers Warehouse were arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu on their way to Lagos.
A statement by the acting Head, Media and Publicity, Tony Orilade, said the suspects who are currently being investigated would be charged to court if found culpable of money laundering offences.
“The EFCC, Enugu Zonal Office, on Thursday, December 20, 2018, intercepted $2.8million, from two people, suspected to be money launderers, at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
“The suspects, namely Ighoh Augustine and Ezekwe Emmanuel, allegedly working for a company- Bankers Warehouse, were nabbed based on intelligence report.
“Upon their arrests, they were caught with consignments of two suitcases, containing $1.4 million each, totalling $2.8 million, at the departure lounge of the airport while about to board an Arik Air evening flight to Lagos”, part of the statement read.
However Orilade stated that the defendants during interrogation, confessed that they have been in the business of conveying cash for “some notable banks”, for over six years and were in the process of doing same for Union Bank Plc, located at New Market, Onitsha, Anambra State, when they were caught.
According to the statement, this is the fourth time the defendants said they have engaged in the act this year.
“They are presently giving useful information to operatives of the Commission, and will be charged to court soon”, the statement read.
However, in its reaction to the letter by Bankers Warehouse, the EFCC said it tried reaching officials of the bank to no avail and that regardless, investigation would go on before deciding on the next line of action.
Reiterating that investigations were still on and the outcome of the probe would determine the agency’s next line of action, spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade added: “On the Union Bank saga, the way forward is that investigation is ongoing. On the detention of their staff and threat to confiscate the money, this is neither here nor there. The two men arrested with the money were detained, because they have to offer relevant information.
“The bank refused to honour invitation from the time of the arrest until we had to go out with the story. That was when they suddenly realised they need to honour the invitation. Be that as it may, a thorough investigation has to be carried out as to the source and legitimacy of the money because we are not unaware that some financial institutions are being used to launder money.”