In the process, they carted away the sum of $1.5 million kept in a bagging store by Mrs Uche Eziama, owner of Deravine Company. According to a police source, the said money was kept in a bag and Mrs. Eziama intended to use it for a business transaction that could not hold, following which she decided to keep it in the bagging store. But to her utter shock, by the time she went there to fetch it, it had vanished. She alerted the police and some suspects were arrested. As the suspects were being screened, one of them, Ifeanyi Francis, confessed to the crime. Continue...
The police later recovered the sum of $224, 240 and two landed properties Ifeanyi said he acquired with the money. Also recovered from him was a Pathfinder SUV he allegedly purchased with part of the stolen money. He also confessed that one of the gang’s members, Chibuzor Onuegbu, who worked at the MMIA as a clearing and forwarding agent, was the one who told him to come to Lagos for the job. He said the larger share of the money was with Onuegbu, adding that Onuegbu confided in him that he would give the money to his elder brother, Kalu, to keep for him.
Based on the foregoing information, operatives of SARS, led by officer in charge of SARS a Superintendent of Police (SP) Abba Kyari went after Kalu, who was said to have initially denied any knowledge of the deal. But he later confessed to the crime, giving details of the steps they took to steal the money. His confession led to the arrest of another suspect, Chioma Obinabor, who claimed to be a girlfriend to Chibuzor, the alleged mastermind of the crime, who was said to have escaped to London. Kalu said some money was given to him but he did not know the exact amount he was given to keep until the third day when Chibuzor came, collected the money and gave it to his girlfriend to acquire three and a half plots of land for him at Onigbo area of Port Harcourt.
He also bought two plots of land in Aba with two detachable bungalows. Based on Kalu’s information, SARS operatives went after Chioma in Onitsha and arrested her, following which she admitted that her boyfriend, Chibuzor, gave her money to acquire landed property for him. She said she bought six plots of land for N9 million and another four plots for N10 million at 33 area of Onitsha, Anambra State. She said Chibuzor relocated to London after giving her the money. The police also revealed that Kalu bought a Honda CRV and rented a three-bedroom flat for N500,000, furnishing same with over N700,000. The said flat was said to be located at Abuloma area of Port Harcourt. The first suspect, Ifeanyi Francis (25), who claimed to have trained as a bricklayer, said he attended Government Technical College (GTC) Owerri, Imo State. Asked how he became involved in robbery operations, he said: “I got a call from Chibuzor Onuegbu. He became my friend when we were in Enugu in those days, and he asked me to come to Lagos for a deal. When I got to Lagos, I gave him a call and he came and took me to his house where he told me that there was something he wanted me to do for him. He said there was a bag he wanted to pick from a company where he worked at the MMIA Ikeja, but he wanted me to go and pick it for him. “I asked him what the content of the bag was. I did not know that he wanted me to steal the bag. I thought the bag was his. He brought out a tag ticket and a bag and said he would take me to the company and show me the particular place I would take the bag from, and that I should tell them that I came to baggage because I wanted to travel. He showed me the tag ticket that would be put on the bag. “He took me to the company and pointed at the place. When I entered, I told them what he instructed me to tell them and they opened the bag and saw laptop and clothes. I asked him whether I was going to pick it on that day and he said yes. He said they would charge N300 per day for keeping the bag and two days would be N600. “I later left the airport and went to my sister’s house to sleep. When my sister saw me, she was surprised because I did not inform her that I was coming to Lagos. Around 6.30 pm the same day, Chibuzor called and told me that I should come to the airport. I went there to meet him. When I met him, he said I should go and pick the bag. “I picked the bag, but I did not know the content. When I took it to him, he told me that what he planned to do did not work out well, particularly the things he wanted to put inside the bag. The next day, he called me again and said I should go through the same process. They still collected the bag from me and I left. “Around 7.30 pm the same day, he called me again and I told him that I was at my sister’s house. He said I should go and pick the bag. This time, the bag was very heavy and he was outside with a taxi. I entered. Why the bag became heavy was that he carried the one containing dollars and put in the one I brought to the airport. “I carried the bag containing dollars and entered the taxi cab he came with and we drove to the street where he was squatting with his sister. But half way, we stopped and he paid off the taxi driver, while we trekked the remaining distance to his sister’s flat. “As we were trekking, I asked him what was inside the bag. Along that street, there was a container. We entered the container and there he opened the bag and showed me the content. When I saw dollars, I was so shocked that I nearly lost control of my mind. It became very difficult for him to close the bag, so he brought out part of the money and put it in the other bag we were carrying. “When we got to the gate of the sister’s house, he said I should find my way and that by the following day he would give me a call to come. He rushed to the backyard and within 30 minutes, he came out. That was between 9 and 10 pm. He said I should give him the bag and that I should go with the other bag, and I left. “In the morning of the following day, I went to the sister’s house to see him. For two hours, I could not see him. Fortunately, he came out to buy something, thinking that I had gone. I rushed towards him and asked how we were going to share the money. He said there were other people behind the business who would get their own shares, but that he would give me something for the excellent role I played in stealing the money. “I wanted to play a smart one on him, so I told him that the money he put in my bag was no longer there because I put it back without him knowing, and he said it was not true. He threatened not to give me anything until I brought out the one in my possession. I went inside, checked the bag and counted the money. It was about N60 million. “I used the money to buy land while he carried the bigger bag. I bought two plots of land for N4.5 million and built a six-bedroom flat, bought a jeep and enjoyed my life. My only regret is that the government will confiscate my land and vehicle and the balance I have in the bank will be returned to the owner while I will become poor again; a situation I thought that I had overcome for life. The second suspect, Chioma Obinabor (27), who claimed that Chibuzor was her boyfriend, said: “My boyfriend, Chibuzor, told me that his name was Michael Okafor when he started ‘toasting’ me at ITC Motor Park in Onithsa as we were travelling to Owerri in the same commercial bus around November 2013. I later learnt that his real name is Chibuzor Onuegbe. “We did not know each other before then. When the bus moved, we started discussing and became friendly. He asked me about my name, village and where I was going to stay in Owerri. He told me that he was working at the MMIA Ikeja and that God had blessed him somehow and would take all the glory. “I told him that I used to help my brother to sell goods in his shop. He later paid my transport fare and I gave him my phone number. He later called me and invited me to one hotel in Owerri on a Friday. The hotel is situated on Douglas Road, but I don’t know the name of the hotel because I was not interested in that. I only wanted to honour his invitation because I had fallen in love with him, thinking that he was a responsible man. “We later made love. And when I wanted to leave the hotel, he gave me N20,000 for transportation back to Onitsha and I was very happy. “He later invited me again to another hotel in Owerri and gave me N50,000 as transport fare back to Onitsha. All these happened between November and December last year. He even invited me to the hotel the third time, and when I was going back to Onitsha, he gave me N100,000. During the Christmas period, I called him and told him that I wanted to buy something for Christmas, and he asked me to send my bank account number to him. He paid N230,000 into my account, bringing the total money he gave me to N400,000. “In January this year, he told me that he wanted to travel to London and asked me to help him buy some lands. He gave me money in dollars and I later bought land for him with the money. I bought a plot at 33 area of Onitsha, Anambra State for N10 million, but I paid the owner in dollars for four plots of land. “I took the documents to him in Owerri for signing. Later, I went to buy another six plots at the same 33 area at the rate of N9 million. I bought it from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) based in Abuja. “When he told me that he would travel to London through Ghanaian Airport, I decided to go with him so that I could branch to Togo to see my father who was sick and was taking treatment in a hospital there. I dropped when we got to Ghana while he left for London at 11 pm that same Saturday with a promise to call me when he reached London. “But I was arrested in Onitsha in March when I went for my father’s burial. I have shown the police all the lands and documents. I did not know that they stole the money from MMIA in Lagos. This incident has taught me a big lesson because from now on, before I accept to be anyone’s friend or fiancée, I will investigate him properly.” The third suspect, Onuegbe Kalu (34), who claimed to be elder brother to Chibuzor, said he was newly engaged with a beautiful woman. He also described himself as an electrical engineer working with an oil company in Port Harcourt. He said: “Early this year, the operatives of SARS invited me to Lagos and I honoured their invitation. They told me that my younger brother, Chibuzor, stole money from the company where he was working at the MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos. Chibuzor was staying with my in-law who got him the job he was doing at the MMIA. “I was invited here and I took an undertaking to look for my brother. When I left, I tried to get him. Luckily for me, he called and told me that he would visit me in Port Harcourt. He came with a bag of money and told me that I should keep it for him. I did not count it. He asked me to help him acquire landed property with the money. “When he left, I called close friends and told them that the police had asked me to help them to arrest my brother for stealing millions of naira, but they said it is only a stupid man that would see wealth and choose poverty. That left me confused as to the next step to take. “As I was thinking about what to do, he came back a few days later and told me that he wanted to collect the money to give to somebody who would be able to use it to acquire land for him quickly. He only left N5.2 million with me and asked me to use my name to buy a land and develop it. I had no choice but to comply. “Already, I had bought two plots of land for him for N10 million. But before he left, he told me that he would give the remaining money to his girlfriend to buy land for him.”
Culled from The Nation Online