Union Bank, one of Nigeria’s oldest financial institutions, on Friday, December 21, 2018,admitted ownership of a large consignment of cash which anti-graft operatives said they intercepted at the international airport in Enugu.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, announced in a statement Friday evening that two men were arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport with a combined cash of $2.8 million (over N1 billion at N360 a dollar).
The anti-graft office said it was investigating the recovery as money laundering.
But Union Bank strongly denied wrongdoing, saying the practice was standard in the banking industry and its contractors were licenced by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In a string of tweets directed at the EFCC on Friday night, Union Bank criticised the anti-graft office for being too hasty at disclosing the development to the public, “prior to the completion” of investigation.
1: Movement of cash across states is routine for all banks.
— UNION BANK (@UNIONBANK_NG) December 21, 2018
It was learnt on Saturday, December 22, 2018, from Tony Orilade, a spokesperson for the EFCC, that the money was intercepted at about 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, and it came barely a few weeks after operatives recovered about N940 million from a Lebanese and another $370,000 at Lagos Airport.
Mr Orilade said the EFCC made concerted efforts to get Union Bank to corroborate accounts of the suspects, but was frustrated for nearly 24 hours.
“We made serious efforts to get Union Bank officials in Enugu and other parts of the country to confirm details of the money, but there was no one ready to cooperate with us,” Mr Orilade said. “We then decided to count the money before the suspects and took it to the CBN in Enugu where it was deposited and records taken.”
Mr Orilade said as of 4:00 p.m. Friday, Union Bank representatives had not come around to claim the money or ask about their staff members arrested.
“It was after we released a statement to the media that they started calling and making noise,” the spokesperson said.
It was not immediately learnt whether Union Bank or Bankers Warehouse has reached out to the anti-graft office to sort out the matter.
Mr Orilade said the agency was unconvinced by Union Bank merely claiming ownership of the money on Twitter.
“Investigation is ongoing, which might prompt prosecution or no prosecution,” the EFCC chief said. “But we would like to let Nigerians know that when we see anything close to infringement of the law, we do not leave anything to chances.”