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Monday, April 22, 2024

NDLEA seizes 107 bank accounts, N119m, 49.70kg heroin from cartel

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it has intercepted what it described as its largest consignment of heroin in Lagos.

The agency also seized a whopping 107 bank accounts belonging to the syndicate, in addition to over N119 million, and a prized 49.70kg heroin, said to be the largest seizure in the history of the agency.

This was disclosed at a Press conference by the Chairman/CEO of NDLEA, Brig-Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) in Lagos on Tuesday [today].

It also arrested the cartel members, described as a syndicate that has a wide network in Nigeria.

We’ve unraveled an organized criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and parts of Europe and America

According to Marwa, “It started on February 10, 2024, when NDLEA operatives of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s Cargo Terminal.

“The consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal-cutting machines. Each carton was stocked with three blocks of high-grade heroin. In total, we recovered 45 blocks of the illicit substance with a total weight of 49.70kg.

“After the discovery, we were methodical and meticulous in our investigations. We started with the arrest of the freight agent whose name is Olowolagba Wasiu Babatunde. It turned out that he was hired for clearing services by Mattpee Logistics, a company operated by one Mr. Kola resident in South Africa.

“Next, we conducted a follow up operation at the company’s warehouse in the Shogunle area of Oshodi, Lagos, and arrested the warehouse manager, whose name is Ajayi Imole Moses.

The consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal-cutting machines. In total, we recovered 45 blocks of heroin with a total weight of 49.70kg

“Thereafter, we set up an ambush for the expected receiver of the consignment who was duly arrested when he showed up for collection. This receiver, whose name is Adinnu Felix Chinedu, confessed during interrogation that he is the main distributor for a drug syndicate whose membership is spread across Nigeria.

“He admitted that he usually conveyed the consignment to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo. That place served as a workshop where he would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines. Thereafter, he would wait for a list of various recipients to be forwarded to him from South Africa by the head of the criminal group.

“Our operatives did due diligence by conducting a thorough search of the warehouse which led to the recovery of 56 similar cartons of the cutting machines that were used previously as modes of concealment to ferry heroin into Nigeria.

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“At this point, it was clear that we were dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time, we were done exploring various leads, we had unraveled an organized criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and parts of Europe and America.

“This syndicate has a wide network in Nigeria because the consignments we seized were marked with several code names, showing that they belonged to different members of this organised criminal group.

the consignments are taken to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo, lagos, which served as a workshop where they would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines

“Furthermore, in our follow-up operation, we uncovered from the suspect a long list of receivers of illicit drugs. In the end, we were able to identify the kingpin of the syndicate here in Nigeria and his name is Reginald Peter Chidiebere.

“Our investigations showed that he owns the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite, located at 16 Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace.”

The NDLEA boss said several days of surveillance on the hotel culminated in a raid operation on Monday, February 19 in which another drug mule, Igboanugo Chukwuebuka Thankgod, was found in possession of two parcels of 2.2kg heroin with codes similar to the ones found on the seized drug shipment, bringing the total seizure to 51.90 kilograms.

“He readily confessed that he was invited by Mr. Reginald Peter Chidiebere to the hotel on Sunday, February 18, 2024. He was lodged in one of the rooms and was later summoned by the receptionist to meet a guest, whom Reginald Peter Chidiebere had informed him over the phone to receive a package. This sequence of action was confirmed by a review of the CCTV at the hotel”, he stated.

pre-emptive actions so far taken against members of the syndicate include freezing a total of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel, as well as the N119,582,928.31 found in some of the bank accounts.

Gen Marwa further explained that pre-emptive actions so far taken against members of the syndicate include freezing a total of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel, as well as the N119,582,928.31 found in some of the bank accounts.

He added that the hotel and a mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Nigeria, Reginald Peter Chidiebere; and another mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Mozambique, Festus Ibewuike located in Ago Palace area had already been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

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He said the measure yielded further fruit on Thursday, 22nd February when a female member of the syndicate and wife of Festus Ibewuike, Mrs. Confidence Ndidiamaka Ibewuike, who is one of those to collect part of the consignment from Adinnu Felix Chinedu, was arrested at Ago Palace area last Thursday.

“When they were brought face to face, he (Adinnu Felix Chinedu) immediately identified her as one of the members of the criminal syndicate who had received similar packages of heroin with the syndicate’s logo from him on two different occasions.

the kingpin of the syndicate here in Nigeria  is Reginald Peter Chidiebere. He owns the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite at 16, Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace, lagos

Though she denied knowing Adinnu or receiving anything from him before, investigation later revealed how her husband, identified as Festus Ibewuike, who is a top kingpin and currently residing in Mozambique, used to send drug consignments to her through Adinnu Felix Chinedu.

“With pictorial evidence of different parcels with different codes and using other methodologies, we were able to confirm several instructions from her husband to her regarding illicit drug shipments already collected before.

“A search was promptly conducted in their residence located at the Ago Palace area, Festac Town, where a Toyota Venza car was recovered as well as several documents, including  bank and property documents belonging to Festus Ibewuike.. Their mansion in Ago Palace area has also been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

As part of efforts to ensure all those involved are brought to book, Marwa assured that
“NDLEA has shared comprehensive intelligence with our South African counterparts for necessary action regarding the other members of the group living in that country.”

Theresa Arike
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