The Nigeria Customs Service on Tuesday said it intercepted $8,065,612m (N2.92bn) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), said the cash which was in $100 denomination, was found sealed in 20 wraps in six Bagco bags and packed in a coaster bus allegedly belonging to the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc.
He said one person had been arrested in connection with the money, which was intercepted on January 16, 2020 at the E-Wing of the international airport tarmac.
According to him, the Customs took inventory of the money on January 18, 2020, in the presence of some officials of the Department of State Service, Customs intelligence unit, anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing unit, Customs Police and the suspect. The amount was confirmed.
Ali said the Airport Command of the Customs was able to intercept the sum through credible information gathered on the day the consignment was supposed to be moved out of the country.
He explained that the NCS had commenced investigation into the consignment to know the owner and his accomplice in the attempted smuggling.
He said after investigation, the funds and the suspect would be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Ali stated that any amount of money in excess of $10,000 must be declared by a traveller to the Customs.
He said, “The question often asked is: why do Customs or other agencies of government need to know if a private person or company is taking out monies for their personal business out of the country?
“It is for the reason that illegal criminal activities like international terrorism, drug smuggling, arms proliferation are financed by illicit cash moved outside the recognised financial systems.”
He stated that proceeds from other criminal activities such as corrupt enrichment from public treasury could also be moved out of the country in cash.
According to him, to enforce compliance with the monitoring of cross-border cash movement, registers are maintained at all approved points of entry and exit, where voluntary declarations are encouraged and made.
NAHCO has however denied any connection with the intercepted cash.
The company said in a statement that it had initiated contact with the NCS’s hierarchy to provide it with details of the incident.
NAHCO stated that as a responsible corporate organisation, it would cooperate with all regulators, agencies and other stakeholders to find out the truth about the incident.
The Customs CG also disclosed that his men intercepted smuggled Pangolin scales valued at N10.26bn.
Ali said the pangolin scales were intercepted along the Isheri axis of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
He noted that pangolin was a highly endangered species and international law prohibited its trade in any form.
According to him, the price of the scales, which goes for $3000 per kilo, made it irresistible to smugglers.
Ali lamented the continued incidents of smuggling in the country despite the border closure, saying that rice and other prohibited goods still found their way into Nigeria.
He said, “The fact that we have border closure and people still bring rice and other items into the country shows that our people have the natural tendency to commit crime.”
The Customs boss said the scales would be handed over to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Agency for further action.