Bankers Warehouse, Union Bank tackle EFCC about seizure of N1.02bn

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Bankers Warehouse and Union Bank Plc have reacted to the seizure of N1.02 billion ($2.8 million) at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which claimed that the money was laundered funds.

Bankers Warehouse Limited, which moved the currency on behalf of Union Bank, said in a letter signed by its head of operations, Dr. Lawrence Ijebor, and addressed to the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, that the money was wrongly seized adding that transporting the funds through its couriers is not only legitimate, but also a normal business operation.

In the letter entitled ‘EFCC Confiscation of Goods in Transit with Bankers Warehouse’ the company it was facing a challenge with one of the security agencies (EFCC) “who detained our couriers…while attempting to board a flight from Enugu to Lagos, conveying currency on behalf of Union Bank.”

“They were transporting US Dollars,” said the company.

It also stated that the two men, Messrs Ighoh Augustine and Ezekwe Emmanuel, paraded by the EFCC as suspected money launderers, are the company’s staff who were on official cash in transit movement covered by a letter of authority issued by Union Bank.

It therefore asked for their unconditional release.

The letter reads

“We want to convey to you that once again, we are facing a challenge with one of the security agencies (this time the EFCC),who detained our couriers yesterday evening while attempting to board an Arik air flight from Enugu to Lagos, conveying currency on behalf of Union Bank. They were transporting US Dollar.

“When questioned, they presented their Identity cards, identifying themselves as Bankers Warehouse employees on official movement and also provided the letter of authority issued by the bank, covering that movement.

“Despite the Information provided, the EFCC insisted on detaining our employees, taking possession of our goods and threatening to confiscate the currency, without making themselves available to our senior managers or other agencies familiar with our movements.

“This evening our attention has been drawn to an article in the Daily Trust Online, as well as the EFCC website https:/Jefccnlgerla.ora, where our staff have been paraded as suspected money launderers; exposing the Identity of our client and portraying our company in not just a negative, but criminal light.

“We seek your intervention as our regulator, to address this issue of constant harassment of our staff, by security agencies, which constitutes a risk that could threaten the lives and safety of our employees and the cargo they are tasked with conveying.

“Also, kindly recall that the CBN had previously called a meeting of stakeholders regarding this issue in the past.  It may be prudent to engage the stakeholders once again, to provide clarity on the legitimacy, coverage and mode of operations of registered CIT operators.

“We attach a copy of the related article in the Daily Trust Online for ease of reference. We look forward to your kind and urgent intervention.”

Similarly, Union Bank reacted via series of twitter posts, claiming ownership of the seized funds.

The bank said movement of cash in the manner the EFCC consider as suspicious of money laundering is “legal.”

Some of the tweets read: “Movement of cash across states is routine for all banks;” “Bankers Warehouse is licensed by CBN to provide Cash-in-Transit services; “We are surprised by the release of a news bulletin prior to the completion of @officialefcc investigation;” “This is a legitimate and routine operation consistent with banking.”

The bank maintained that its action for the movement of the seized cash was a legitimate process which other banks in the country also embark upon to move cash across states, adding that “the Bankers Warehouse is licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to provide Cash-in-Transit services.”

It would be recalled that the EFCC had on Friday said its operatives in Enugu State arrested two men with the sum of $2.8m suspected to be laundered funds.

A statement by the acting head, media and publicity, Mr. Tony Orilade, read:

“The EFCC, Enugu Zonal Office, on Thursday, December 20, 2018, intercepted $2.8million, from two people, suspected to be money launderers, at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

“The suspects, namely Ighoh Augustine and Ezekwe Emmanuel, allegedly working for a company- Bankers Warehouse, were nabbed based on intelligence report.

“Upon their arrests, they were caught with consignments of two suitcases, containing $1.4 million each, totalling $2.8 million, at the departure lounge of the airport while about to board an Arik Air evening flight to Lagos.

“During interrogation, 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, when they were caught.

“The suspects further confessed that they had so far carried out such assignments four times this year.

“They are presently giving useful information to operatives of the commission, and will be charged to court soon.”

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