Monday, December 7, 2009

Bank Chief Nabbed Over Possession Of $3.1 Million At Lagos Airport

A combined team of Lagos Airport Police Command, the State Security Service (SSS) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Aviation Security officials has apprehended a senior bank official at the General Aviation Terminal of the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos after she was found in possession of $3.1 million, suspected to be a laundered fund.

Due to the seriousness of the offence, and to unravel the motive behind the alleged transfer of such huge fund without authorized fund transfer documents from the bank, the case has been transferred to Abuja for investigation.

The suspect, who is a Deputy General Manager in one of the rescued banks, was arrested on November 11, 2009 at 9 am in an attempt to board Arik Air's Abuja-bound flight.

The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Airport Police Command, Mr. Ayuba Pam, confirmed the arrest of Etuk, when The Guardian visited the Command on Thursday. He however said that the matter had been transferred to Force headquarters in Abuja for proper investigation.

A top official of one of the aviation agencies who pleaded anonymity disclosed that Etuk was detained for two weeks with the SSS in Lagos before he was moved to Abuja on November 27, 2009 .

The source, however, lauded the security personnel for the arrest, stressing that huge movement of funds through the General Aviation Terminal in chartered aircraft and private jets and commercial aircraft has been a source of worry to them, adding that the movement without proper police protection and under questionable circumstances was giving the airport authority real concern.

Investigation by The Guardian showed that the money found on Etuk had been traced to a governor from one of the oil-rich states in the Niger Delta.

Police sources confided in The Guardian that the sum was being transferred on behalf of the governor, but security operatives who questioned Mrs. Etuk said that she maintained that she was handling the cash on behalf of the bank even though without any authorisation document.

The husband of the bank chief is a Special Assistant to the governor on Utilities and has helped to secure the government's account to the bank.

The Guardian had penultimate week, reported the lax in security at the Lagos airport, which has led to the rise in drug trafficking, money laundering and other nefarious activities by powerful Nigerians.

Of particular concern are operators or owners of private jets, whose agents allegedly aid them to flout security check on their aircraft before take-off.

Disturbed by the development, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren recently summoned all the agents of private airlines in the country, security operatives at the airport which comprise the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Immigration Service, Air Force, security operatives from the Federal FAAN, officials of the SSS and the Nigeria Customs Service among others to a meeting in his office.

Two separate meetings were held that day with the aim of ensuring compliance with screening.

Demuren, at the meeting instructed that all aircraft, particularly private jets be screened by SSS personnel the way it is done in other countries.

There are also indications that prior to the tough stance of government on screening the aircraft of these very few rich men, most of the owners in connivance with their agents were alleged to have been using their jets to smuggle arms, money and drugs out of the country, owing to the lax in security at the airports.

Speaking to The Guardian recently, spokesman for NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said that the Director General of the Authority had threatened to withdraw the agents' licenses if they were found to constitute a security risk to the country and to flight safety.

Adurogboye stated that the private jets owners are given clearance by the NCAA to operate into Nigeria after they must have satisfied all safety related matters to be jointly supervised by the NCAA inspector and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the country where the aircraft is registered.

He explained that foreign registered aircraft and the ones registered in Nigeria under the 5N call sign are given the same level of certification before they can be allowed to operate, adding that the regulatory body has raised the bar in its oversight functions.$3.1%20million%20At%20Lagos%20Airport&cpdate=061209

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