Friday, 13 November 2015

Photo: NDLEA Recovers N59m Cocaine Hidden In Whisky Bottles


 Afeez Hanafi and Ramon Oladimeji

Two suspected drug traffickers have been arrested by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency attached to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, for smuggling 6.6 kilogrammes of cocaine into the country.


PUNCH Metro learnt that the suspects – Michael Okwuma and Chidiebere Nwajagu – allegedly smuggled the drugs into the country from Brazil.

While Okwuma hid the drugs inside wooden frames, Nwajagu was said to have concealed same in cartons of whisky bottles.

Our correspondent gathered that the drugs were uncovered at the MMIA during an inward screening of passengers on board a South African Airways and an Emirates flight.

Okwuma, 31, told investigators that he was introduced to the crime by a Nigerian in Brazil and was paid $3,000 (about N600, 000). He said he had wanted to use the money to augment his meagre salary.

He said, “I live in Sao Paulo with my wife and child. I work in a supermarket but my salary is not sufficient to take care of my family. The man that gave me the drugs is like a father to me.

“He usually renders me financial assistance. He was the one that bought my ticket and gave me the $3,000. I was very happy for the gesture. He also gave me a bag containing children’s clothes and wooden frames to take to Nigeria. When I got to Lagos, NDLEA officers opened the bag and found the cocaine.”
Nwajagu, who is 30 years old, said he took to drug trafficking to raise funds for his business. He added that he was introduced to drug trafficking by a friend in Lagos.

He said, “I was in my village in Anambra doing menial jobs to sustain myself. I came to Lagos on a short visit when I met an old friend. He was very nice to me as he used to give me money, buy me drinks and food.

“He told me to travel to Brazil and help him bring a bag back to Nigeria. He said he would give me enough money to help me start a business. That was how I travelled out of Nigeria. On arrival, the bag was searched and the cocaine was found inside packs of Irish whiskey. I never knew I would end up this way.”

The NDLEA Commander at the MMIA, Mr. Ahmadu Garba, who confirmed the arrests, put the street value of the drugs at N59m.

“Okwuma was found in possession of 3.4kg of cocaine hidden inside wooden frames and Nwajagu Chidiebere was found with 3.2kg of cocaine hidden inside packs of Irish whiskey. The drug has an estimated street value of N59m.

“Okwuma took off from Guarulhos International Airport Sao Paulo, Brazil on a South African Airways flight through Johannesburg to Lagos. Nwajagu Chidiebere also left Brazil on an Emirates flight through United Arab Emirates to Lagos. Both suspects will soon be charged to court,” Garba said.

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the prison remand of two men, Ikenna Ozoh and Ogbo Obiora, for allegedly laundering about N128m, said to be the proceeds of illegal narcotics business.

The remand of the two followed their arraignment on four counts of money laundering by the NDLEA.

The agency specifically accused Obiora of collaborating with one Chinedu, who is now at large, to conceal N128m in his (Obiora’s) personal savings bank account with Diamond Bank.

The accused persons were said to have committed the offence between February 2014 and 2015.

Ikenna and Obiora were said to have been arrested on September 9, 2015 at the MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos State, during the outward clearance of passengers onboard an Etihad Airline flight to Brazil.

The NDLEA prosecutor, Mr. Ibrahim Abu, also told the court that the sum of $34,000 was recovered from Ikenna, which he failed to declare to the Nigeria Customs Service, “knowing that the said money directly or indirectly represents proceeds of a criminal conduct, to wit: dealing and trafficking in narcotic drugs.”

Abu said the offence was contrary to sections 2(5), 15(1)(b) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, stressing that the accused persons were liable to being punished under sections 16(a) and 17(a) of the same law.

Ikenna and Obiora, however, pleaded not guilty to the four counts levelled against them.

Following bail applications by their lawyer, Mr. Victor Abana, Justice Saliu Saidu admitted both Ikenna and Obiora to bail in the sum of N20m with two sureties each in like sum.

The judge said one of the sureties must be a civil servant either with the federal or state government and must be on at least a Level 17 official.

The second surety, the judge said, must be a blood relation of the accused persons, who must own a landed property in Lagos and must also be resident in Lagos State.

Justice Saidu also ordered the handover of the accused persons’ passports to the NDLEA.

He, however, ordered the prison remand of the two accused pending the fulfilment of their bail conditions.

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