By Soni Daniel, Asistant Editor, Abuja & Ifeanyi Okoli
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has detained a man nabbed with $7 million cash at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos last Thursday.
Abubalkar Tijani Sheriff, 24, suspected to be a bulk currency smuggler, was arrested by EFCC operatives as he was about to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates with the cash.
A statement from the commission said that Sheriff had earlier declared that he had only $4.5million but had to recant his declaration when the huge cash was found on him upon search by the operatives.
The sum of $7,049,444 (Seven million, Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars) was found on him.
He confessed that he was a courier for 20 individuals who hired him to ferry the money 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.
Acting Head of EFCC’s Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren explained that travellers leaving the country are statutorily required to declare cash in excess of $10,000. But he said that it was not sufficient to declare excess cash, under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, as the onus was on the person making the declaration to explain the source of the excess cash and the reason for the export.
Uwujaren declared,“Experience has shown that bulk cash smuggling, the world over, are 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.
“The Commission warns travellers who for any reason want to move bulk cash out of the country to do so through the banking system. Otherwise, they must be prepared to declare it and explain the source of the money.
Vanguard gathered that the suspect had been detained at the Commission’s holding facility in Lagos pending his arraignment in court.