Six members of a suspected money laundering syndicate that specializes in swallowing dollars were today arrested at the Excel Oriental Hotel, along Airport Road in Lagos by officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency for allegedly swallowing US$156,000 (about N32 million) meant for export to Brazil.
In a statement released today, NDLEA said illicit exportation of currency by ingestion is a new trend in by-passing anti-money laundering operatives.
The anti-narcotic agency in its statement identified those arrested as Kingsley Nwokenta, a bureau de change operator also known as Buchito; Augustine Onwuasoanya, 54, and Christian Okoli, 35, both based in Brazil; Uzoma Ezenwa, 33, a hotel manager; Ikenna Ezenwa; and Emmanuel Nwokenta.
Investigations by NDLEA showed that Kingsley Nwokenta the owner of Amazon Bureau de Change, is the brain behind the syndicate.
“He allegedly supplied US$120,000 to be swallowed and illicitly exported to Brazil. Onwuasoanya Augustine swallowed 74 wraps of dollars amounting to US$111,000. Christian Okoli who resides in Brazil had US$45,000 which he wanted to swallow.”
The statement by the anti-narcotic agency says one of the suspects arrested, Emmanuel Nwokenta, the manager of the bureau de change, played a “supportive role” in the alleged act while Ikenna Ezenwa, 28, was hired to wrap the money.
“He is believed to have acquired his skill from illicit drug wrapping. Ezenwa Uzoma, the hotel manager who has a strong link with members of the syndicate, wilfully obstructed the officers from discharging their duty. The agency will continue to rely on manpower training and intelligence-led drug control strategies to outwit criminal syndicates. We shall take reasonable measures to dislodge drug cartels and eradicate narcotics from our society. Any bureau de change operator that violates the law shall be punished accordingly.”the statement said
All the arrested members of the syndicate will be handed over to EFCC soon for further investigation.