© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Union bank claims money confiscated by EFCC at Enugu Airport
...but EFCC insists the law was broken
UNION Bank, one of Nigeria’s foremost commercial banks, has claimed ownership of the $2.8 million dollars which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it confiscated at the Enugu International Airport on Friday.
The commission had issued a statement saying two men were arrested with two suitcases containing $1.4 million each, and that they claim to be working for Bankers Warehouse, “a company they insisted is in the business of conveying money for some reputed banks in Nigeria”.
“The suspects confessed that they have been in the business of conveying cash for some notable banks, for over six years and were in the process of doing same for Union Bank Plc, located at New Market, Onitsha, Anambra State, when they were caught,” Tony Orilade, EFCC’s spokesman, stated.
He would later tell The ICIR via text message on Friday that the suspects “are presently giving useful information to operatives of the Commission, and will be charged to court soon”.
But no sooner had the press statement been tweeted by the EFCC than Union Bank responded to the tweet, saying that “Bankers Warehouse is licensed by CBN to provide Cash-in-Transit services” and that “movement of cash across states is routine for all banks”.
“We are surprised by the release of a news bulletin prior to the completion of EFCC’s investigation,” the bank tweeted.
4: This is a legitimate and routine operation consistent with banking.
— UNION BANK (@UNIONBANK_NG) December 21, 2018
Speaking to The ICIR on Saturday, Tony Orilade, the EFCC spokesman said it was not enough for Union Bank to claim that the suspects were carrying out a legitimate and routine operation. He insisted that such a huge amount of money found in the possession of individual persons was against money laundering laws.
“We don’t have any issue with whatever legitimacy they (Union Bank) are claiming, the point is that we are out to fight economic and financial crimes. That is our mandate,” Orilade said.
“Where we find an infringement to the laws, it is for us to take action, which is what we have done.
“If they think otherwise, even if we are at the point of prosecution, they are obligated to come forward with proofs, and it is for the judiciary to decide.
“That somebody has a license to operate a particular kind of business, once illegitimacy is observed, you don’t expect the security agencies to look the other way.”
Orilade also pointed out that the suspects were arrested at about 7.45 pm on Thursday, and that Bankers Warehouse, the firm they said they were working for, was contacted immediately but they refused to respond.
“Nothing followed until yesterday (Friday), about 24 hours after, that they (Bankers Warehouse) had to show up in the office” as at which time the suspects and the cash had been moved to the Enugu office of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Orilade said.
He said that the organisation (Bankers Warehouse) has an office in Enugu and did not need to travel a long distance in order to respond to the EFCC inquiry, but it deliberately refused to show up.
Orilade said that investigation into the case is still ongoing and the suspects are still in the EFCC custody.