ATM Cards: Means Of Money Laundering

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recently  arrested two suspects in connection with the smuggling of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards through the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

NDLEA’s spokesman Ofoyeju Mitchell said 40-year-old Nweke Pauline Osita and Egesiokwu Frank Chukwudi, 41, were arrested with ATM cards of different banks.

“We arrested Nweke Pauline Osita with 65 debit cards and Egesiokwu Frank Chukwudi with twenty-four (24) debit cards during screening of passengers on an Ethiopian airline flight to China,” a statement quoted NDLEA chairman Ahmadu Giade as saying.

According to Giade, the suspects conspired with others to evade scrutiny from government agencies by opening various bank accounts with the aim of using the debit cards for daily withdrawals abroad.

Osita, an Onitsha-based trader, who was caught with 65 debit cards said the cards found on him belong to friends and business partners.

“I am a trader. I sell men’s clothes at Onitsha. I was on my way to China to buy goods when NDLEA officers arrested me with 65 debit cards. The cards belong to my friends, relatives and business partners” Nweke stated.

The NDLEA chairman has directed that the suspects be transferred to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for further Investigation.

Officials of the NDLEA also arrested another trader, Udeh Onuora Pascal, who was travelling to China with 108 debit cards.

“The arrests is an indication that smuggling of debit cards abroad is one of the latest money laundering techniques employed to evade financial regulations,” the NDLEA said.

Last month, the NDLEA arrested six persons, including a Bureau de Change (BDC) operator, allegedly trying to swallow $156,000 in a money laundering bid.

The NDLEA Joint Task Force (JTF) smashed the money laundering syndicate in a hotel on Airport Road, Ikeja, Lagos. The suspects are: Kingsley Nwokenta, the BDC operator, who is also known as Buchito, Augustine Onwuasoanya and Christian Ifor, who are based in Brazil, Emmanuel Nwokenta (Amazon BDC manager), Ikenna Ezenwa and Uzoma Ezenwa, the hotel manager.

Responding to the development, the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) suspended Amazon BDC. The ABCON Executive Council also suspended directors and employees of the company, pending the outcome of the investigations by its Disciplinary and Investigative Committee, the NDLEA,  EFCC and the CBN.

ABCON President, Aminu Gwadabe, who announced the measures, said the group was shocked and highly embarrassed by the discovery and the involvement of a BDC operator in such an illegal act.

Gwadabe said: “While this is not to pre-empt the outcome of these investigations, the suspension is to serve as strong warning to all ABCON members that any case of illegality and unethical conduct will be severely dealt with by the association. “We call on all BDC operators not to allow anyone to use their services or license for money laundering or any act of illegality and criminality.”

He said ABCON has a zero tolerance for non-compliance with regulatory requirement and unethical conduct amongst its members.

“It for this purpose that the association created the office of Compliance Officer at its National Secretariat and in all its zonal offices and also provided vehicles for the compliance officers to regularly visit BDCs under their jurisdictions,” he said.

Analysts attributed the rising cases of money laundering through ATM cards to the tight regulatory policy on forex.

A BDC operator, Michael Abiodun, said that many traders who have naira but are not able to transfer their funds to their foreign suppliers have taken to illegal approaches to get the funds transferred to their foreign business partners.

He said the ongoing ATM card abuse will continue until the CBN loosens its tight forex policies.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x