Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have seized N54 million at the Maiduguri International Airport in Borno State.
The commission said four persons and two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were connected to the seized cash and are currently being investigated.
EFCC gave the names of the suspects as Abdullahi Yarima, Francis Bako, Saraya Umaru, James K. Yadzugwa. The NGOs are Mercy Corps and Development Exchange Centre.
The anti-graft agency said it acted on intelligence report to intercept the cash at the airport.
According to EFCC, investigation into Mercy Corps’ accounts revealed that it has 15 bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers (BVN). Also a BVN search on Development Exchange Centre showed that it had 40 bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers.
A statement by the anti-graft agency noted that it was probing alleged “cases of criminal conspiracy, money laundering and terrorist financing initiated following an intelligence report to the commission on the 18th March, 2019 against Mercy Corps and four others”.
The EFCC statement reads: “On 18th March, 2019, an intelligence report on suspicious movement of large sum of money by some airport users was received from the Maiduguri International Airport.
”The commission immediately deployed a team of operatives to the airport based on which Francis Bako and Saraya Umoru ‘F’ both of Development Exchange Centre (DEC) were arrested with the cash sums of N45 million and N9 million, respectively.
”In the course of the investigation carried out so far, the following facts have emerged: The trio of Francis Bako ‘M’, Saraya Umaru ‘F’ and James Yadzugwa ‘M’ are staff of Development Exchange Centre, while Abdullahi Yerima is a staff of Mercy Corps.
“The Development Exchange Centre is a Non-Governmental Organization that is a financial service provider.
“The Development Exchange Centre was engaged by Mercy Corps to carry out cash-out services in Ngala and Dikwa Internally Displaced Persons Camps.
“On 18th March, 2019, Francis Bako of Development Exchange Centre was in possession of N45 million which was recovered from him by operatives of the commission at the Maiduguri International Airport on his way to Ngala.
“That Saraya Umaru of Development Exchange Centre was also in possession of N9 million which was recovered from her by operatives of the commission at the Maiduguri International Airport on his way to Dikwa.”
“A BVN search on Mercy Corps shows that it has 15 bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers. A BVN search on Development Exchange Centre showed that it had 40 bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers.
Noting that the movement of such amount of cash raised suspicion, EFCC said Mercy Corps has not provided satisfactory explanation for the money.
“The cash movement of the total sum of N54 million through the Maiduguri airport provides strong grounds for suspicion of conspiracy, money laundering and terrorist financing.
“Mercy Corps has also not been able to furnish the investigating team with vital details on the beneficiaries of the said grant to enable us cross-check and verify them.
“A letter dated 20th March 2019, signed by the Country Director, Mercy Corps, the organization stated that it (Mercy Corps) would require the approval of her donor to disclose or furnish data on the beneficiaries of the intercepted money.
“The Operation’s Director of Mercy Corps in his written statement specifically stated that beneficiaries’ data could not be provided to the Commission ‘as the donor for this particular programme did not authorize Mercy Corps to share this data’.
“The investigation has revealed that the intercepted fund was withdrawn from Sterling Bank account of Development Exchange Centre. The said Sterling Bank account was funded from the Zenith Bank account of Mercy Corps, while the Zenith Bank account was funded by Int’l FCStone Nigeria Ltd accounts at Guaranty Trust Bank. The BVN search revealed four GTB accounts linked to Int’l FCStone Nigeria Ltd, on which further search is being conducted.”