Customs FOU Zone ‘A’ charges Lebanese to court over N232m fraud

The Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has dragged a Lebanese, Fares Chawich, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, over alleged tampering with the Customs seal placed on five exotic vehicles in their premises for clearing discrepancies.

Chawich, who resides at No. 27A, Bishop Oluwole St., Victoria Island, Lagos, is standing trial on a five-count charge bordering on intent to defraud the federal government of unpaid duty ofN232.9million.

 

He is standing trial alongside Emmanuel Ekong of No. 17, Sobo Arobiodu St., GRA Ikeja, Lagos, who is reportedly on the run.

 

Controller of the Unit, Comptroller Turaki Usman stated that the Unit was compelled to expediently charge the accused persons to court following the illegal act of breaking Customs seal which according to him is in violation of Section 145(5) of the Customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.

The Controller pointed out that intelligence activity led to discovering that the exotic vehicles which includes Brabus G800,2013 model, Maybach 625, 2009 model, Mclaren SLR, 2009 model, Aston Martin, 2009 model  and Ferrari 458, 2013 model parked in the premises of the accused in Ikeja GRA were grossly undervalued.

He stressed that the Unit had written a letter to the accused following intelligence information that the vehicles did not comply with standard import procedure in terms of due diligence. He confirmed that the documents of the vehicles were eventually subjected to system check at the Unit and it was discussed that the vehicles were grossly undervalued.

The Controller stated that, “In line with Service procedure and in our quest to recover appropriate duty accruable to the vehicles, we placed them on Customs seal after raising a detention notice which one Mr. Fares Chawich who stood as surety had undertaken to pay”.

Customs regretted that instead of the first accused coming forward for regularization of duty, he instead broke the seal and removed the vehicles. The Controller added that it was intelligence activity that led to the discovery of one of the vehicles in Victoria Island area of Lagos.

He stated that the case is before Justice Saliu Seidu of the Federal High Court, Ikeja who granted the accused bail with stringent conditions but the accused person has been remanded in Ikoyi prison pending the fulfillment of the bail conditions, while the second accused Emmanuel Ekong, now at large, is being tracked.

 

Turaki added that some other exotic vehicles evacuated from the same facility were still being investigated with a view to ascertaining the appropriateness of the clearing procedure.

“Investigations are still ongoing to unravel the circumstances and source of importation” he stated.



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