By Dipo Olowookere
Officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have intercepted €325,640 and $30,000 being smuggled into Nigeria from Greece and Austria.
The currencies were seized from two suspects at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos during the inward screening of passengers on a Turkish Airline flight.
The anti-narcotics agency, in a statement issued on Wednesday, explained that the alleged smugglers concealed the money inside envelopes and shoes, failing to declare the foreign currencies as required by law.
In the press release issued by the NDLEA spokesman, Mr Mitchell Ofoyeju, the NDLEA Commander at the Lagos airport, Mr Ahmadu Garba, was quoted as narrating that, “During the inward screening of passengers on a Turkish flight, we discovered €325,640 and $30,000.
“Two suspects, Edos Nicholas, found in possession of €279,190, and Hallowell Prince Lovely, found in possession of €46,450 and $30,000, were also apprehended.”
It was also disclosed in the statement that Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Mr Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, has directed the Director of Assets and Financial Investigation of the Agency, Mrs Victoria Egbase, to take over the investigation.
Mr Abdallah alleged that the criminal groups seek to conceal the origin of illegally obtained money, noting that it was pertinent for the agency to trace the origin of the money and prevent the introduction of criminal funds into the economy.
The statement hinted that preliminary investigation so far revealed that both suspects are frequent travellers who are the target of international drug trafficking organizations, stressing that their sources of income must be verified.
He posited that Edos Nicholas claimed to be working in a bakery in Austria, but confessed that people in Austria gave him the money that the NDLEA seized.
“The money does not belong to me. I was given it by different people in Europe to give to their relatives. I have been living in Vienna, Austria for over fifteen years,” said Mr Nicholas, who hails from Edo State.
The second suspect, Hallowell Prince Lovely, who also hails from Edo State, claimed that the money found on him belongs to other people and that he was asked to deliver it to the recipients in Nigeria.
“I live in Athens and I work in an African shop. I have lived there for twelve years. The money belongs to many people and some of them are my friends,” he said.