The great task of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in achieving this year’s N1.4 trillion revenue revenue target set the Service by the Federal Government may have been given great boost by the Amended Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act (MLPA) 2011.
The Customs Management, it was learnt, has positioned the Service to leverage on the juicy window of opportunity for increased revenue presented by this particular piece of legislation.
Sources informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that Comptroller-General of Custonms Dikko Inde Abdullahi has prioritised the enforcement of this law to the letter.
This was confirmed by CIRCULAR NO: 06/ 2013, and bearing reference number NCS/ADM/MGT/015/S.21/C/Vol., which was addressed to all Deputy Comptrollers-General, all Assistant Comptrollers-General, all Customs Area Controllers (CACs), and all Heads of Units, a copy of which was sighted by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
The circular, which was dated March 4, 2013, was signed on behalf of the Comptroller-General by the Assistant Comptroller-General, Customs Headquarters, Abuja, Tahir Musa.
The document titled: AMENDMENT OF THE MONEY LAUNDERING (PROHIBITION) ACT 2011 read thus: “I am directed to inform all officers of the Service that Sect. 2 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, (MLPA) 2011 has been amended.
“All officers of the Service are by this circular to note that the previous penalty of ‘forfeiture of nothing less than 25 per cent of the undeclared currency’ at all our entry/exit points has been changed to outright forfeiture, on conviction, with the deletion of the phrase ‘… not less than 25 per cent of …’.
“You are to give this circular the widest circulation.”
Checks by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that NCS personnel at the nation’s approved international entry/exit points – the seaports, airports, and land border stations – are on full alert towards effectively enforcing the law.
Early last January, the NCS Kaduna/Katsina Area Command had arrested three Nigeriens for alleged money laundering amounting to N15.2 million.
Parading the suspects before journalists in Katsina, the then CAC, Comptroller Yusuf Umar, said that they were allegedly intercepted at Makera check point, Jibiya border on January 6, 2013.
He said that the suspects travelled across the border with the amount, without declaring it to the Customs, contrary to Part 1, Section 2 (3) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
The said cash, according to Umar, was allegedly hidden under the seats of the suspects’ Honda Accord car with registration number ABJ 602 AE.
“The command, which is acting on the Money Laundering Act and the Nigeria Customs Headquarters Circular no. 029/2012 of September 2012, arrested these suspects. The circular authorises officers of the Service to be vigilant and intercept persons involved in movement of bulk cash,” he said.
Similarly, the NCS Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Area Command on February 20, 2013, arrested one Prof. Ofoegbu Charles Ononuju for allegedly being in possession of the sum of $1,100,000.00 at the airport.
The CAC, Comptroller Charles Edike, told reporters that, although the suspect declared the money in his Customs currency declaration form, he failed to disclose the sum to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The suspect, who claimed to be a Director of AZ Petroleum, said that he was allegedly travelling with the Kenya Airways to solve dispute with the Kenyan community over oil blocs, consequently, he was travelling with such amount in cash.
The suspect and the currency, according to the CAC, were handed over to the EFCC.
Meanwhile, giving a rundown of activities of the command for last year, Edike noted that no fewer than 14 suspected currency smugglers were arrested with a total sum of $12, 1076,337.00 during the review period.
He said that the suspects were handed over to the EFCC for prosecution.
In a particular incident, the command arrested and handed over to the EFCC a passenger, who allegedly had $767,500 cash on him.
The passenger, identified as Yusuf Taofeeq Olanrewaju, with passport number A03758685 was arrested by Customs officials while trying to board an Emirates Airlines flight to Hong Kong via Duba, through the E-wing of the airport.
The passenger with the said amount was handed over to the EFCC for further investigation.
The Customs Public Relations Officer, MMA Command, NCS, Mrs. Thelma Williams, said that, though the passenger declared the said amount on the prescribed forms CDF1A and CDF1B, he could not explain satisfactorily the source of the money.
Williams explained that investigations by Customs revealed that the suspect was a frequent traveler.
She said: “Upon investigation, the passenger, Yusuf Taofeeq Olanrewaju, was noted as a frequent traveler with currency as follows: on April 27, 2012, $280,000 to Hong Kong.
“On July 21, 2012, he travelled with $395,000 to Hong Kong. On September 15, 2012, he travelled with $525,000 to Hong Kong.
“On November 3, 2012, he travelled with $10,000 to China. And this present case, January 10, 2013 $767,500 to Hong Kong.”
And most recently, about a month ago, operatives of the command intercepted and arrested a passenger with $540,000 at the airport.
The suspect, who was said to be on his way to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) aboard an Emirates flight, according to a statement by the Customs Public Relations Officer of the command, was identified as Mr. Apampa Fatai Adeshina.
Williams explained that Apampa was arrested on April 2, 2013, for allegedly failing to declare the actual amount he was carrying.
She said that the passenger also failed to disclose to relevant government agencies the source of the money he was travelling with.
Williams said that Apampa, who had passport number AO3445111, and the cash seized from him, was handed over to the EFC for further investigation.
She explained that the passenger was arrested at the Currency Declaration Desk of the NCS.