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Laundered N33bn: EFCC Arrest Social Media Celebrity Mompha’s Lebanese Collaborator With Charms In N1.8bn Per Year Eko Atlantic Suite

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A Lebanese Hamza Koudeih and two other suspected accomplices of social media celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha (a.k.a. Mompha), have been arrested in Lagos.

Koudeih was arrested at the weekend after a three-hour stand-off at his N1.8 billion luxury apartment in the 33-storey Eko Atlantic Pearl Tower, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Mompha, Koudeih and the others are suspected to be kingpins of a network of cybercriminals who laundered N33 billion through three firms.

His arrest by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), followed intelligence unearthed after Mompha’s arrest last Tuesday.

According to The Nation, when the anti-graft agency’s operatives arrived at his luxury suite, Koudeih and his wife refused to open the door.

The couple also did not respond to appeals from the building’s chief security officer.

But the operatives, who had been monitoring the premises and had it surrounded, knew the Lebanese was inside. His cars were parked in the garage downstairs.

The apartment was fortified with triple reinforced fire-proof door and closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and they could not gain entrance.

It was gathered that the EFCC investigators battled for three hours to break down the door using breaching tools.

When they gained access, they met his wife who claimed Koudeih had escaped through the window.

But Koudeih’s apartment is on one of the topmost floors of Eko Atlantic Pearl Tower, said to be the tallest apartment building in Nigeria.

“Our officials knew that he was still inside and they were even hoping to persuade him not to jump out through the window because it would be suicide,” EFCC Lagos Zonal Head, Mr. Mohammed Rabo, who confirmed the arrest, told The Nation.

But they did not find Koudeih in any of the rooms until they observed that a part of the ceiling in his bedroom had been artificially sealed.

They pushed it open and found Koudeih hiding in the ceiling.

Further search of his bedroom revealed a fire-proof safe containing different charms and talismans in calabashes.

According to the EFCC, the Lebanese admitted they were his “prayer objects”. Two luxury cars were also recovered from him.

Rabo said the commission was investigating Koudeih and his wife’s immigration status and the result was being expected.

He said it had been confirmed that they had Lebanese ancestry but it was not known if they had any other nationality.

The nationality of the two other suspects, he explained, was not yet known.

Rabo stated that local and international law enforcement agencies had indicated interest to collaborate in the investigation.

He said the operation that led to Koudeih’s arrest was “an offshoot of the collaboration between the EFCC and the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” but that Koudeih was arrested based on “purely EFCC intelligence”.

Rabo added: “Actionable intelligence received from local and international law enforcement agencies had revealed that Koudeih and Mompha alongside their collaborators are high valued targets in Organised Cyber Syndicate Network (OCSN).

“Investigations have also revealed that Mompha uses a firm known as Ismalob Global Investments Limited to perpetrate about N14 billion money laundering while Koudeih also operate two firms namely: THK Services Limited and CHK properties Limited to launder about N19 billion.”

It was also learnt that the EFCC discovered 51 Nigerian bank accounts opened by Mompha for money laundering.

The commission also revealed that the five wristwatches recovered from Mompha at his arrest on Tuesday are worth over N60 million, rather than the N20 million earlier thought.

According to the EFCC, Mompha, “a premium and first-class customer of one of the popular international airlines, was arrested on Friday 18, October 2019 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on his way to Dubai Emirate following [a] series of intelligence reports received by the Commission.”

BIG STORY

Braimoh’s Death: Lagos Assembly Directs Lawmakers To Undergo COVID-19 Test

Peter Okunoren

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Lawmakers of the Lagos State House of Assembly have been directed to undergo the COVID-19 test following the sudden death of its member, Tunde Braimoh, last Friday.

Temitope Adewale, representing Ifako Ijaiye Constituency I, made the disclosure in a statement in Lagos on Tuesday.

Adewale said he had submitted himself for the COVID-19 test and the result was negative.

He said: “As directed by the leadership of the Lagos State House of Assembly on Sunday, I went and submitted myself for the COVID-19 test, and I have gotten my result. The test result came out Negative.

“To this end, it is our collective responsibility to be more careful and observe all the stipulated and given rules to help us prevent the transmission of this deadly virus.

“Wash your hands for 30 seconds regularly, avoid social gatherings, maintain social distancing, and at all times wear a face mask.

“The use of hand sanitizers should become a habit and finally, avoid touching your face and nose.”

Adewale, Chairman, House Committee on Transportation, said there was a need to fight the pandemic, which was beyond keeping safe but also to also know their status.

The lawmaker thanked his constituents for their love, support, and care, adding that he won’t be receiving any visitors for now

The Lagos lawmaker also commended Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, for their proactive and tireless fight against the pandemic.

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Fighting Corruption Will Get More Difficult In Nigeria —- VP Osinbajo

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The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, has spoken on why the fight against corruption in the country may continue to get difficult on a daily basis.

Mr Osinbajo spoke on Tuesday at the 20th-anniversary regional webinar organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offenses Commission (ICPC).

His speech was titled, “Combating corruption and illicit financial flows: New measures and strategies.” and was made available to journalists by his spokesperson, Laolu Akande.

He noted that aside from the difficulties, many people will also get frustrated for standing against corruption.

“The fight against corruption is nuanced and hydra-headed, it is not going to get easier by the day; as a matter of fact, it will get more difficult by the day and many will become discouraged in standing up against corruption.”

“…Over the years, massive public resources and assets have been directly stolen, diverted, deliberately misapplied to gratify corrupt tendencies, stashed in foreign jurisdictions or mired in and susceptible to pilferage by the inequitable and unjust international economic system that continues to undermine the social and economic development aspirations of poor countries, especially from Africa.”

“Without effectively combating corruption and IFFs (Illicit Financial Flows) and promoting international cooperation for asset recovery and asset return, Africa cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 16 of the SDGs is devoted to corruption.”

“Our experience in Nigeria, as in other developing countries, is that anonymous corporate ownership covers a multitude of sins, including conflict of interests, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.”

Mr Osinbajo, however, said the current administration had given anti-corruption agencies the will to operate independently in carrying out their activities without government interference.

He disclosed that to win the war against corruption, the country “must protect, even more, whistle-blowers – persons who come forward with information against corruption.”

“We must protect those who are ready to fight against corruption and who are prepared to do so without necessarily disclosing their identities and even those who are ready to disclose their identities.

“We must make corruption expensive for those who engage in it and send the unequivocal message that corruption simply does not pay.

“It is the unenviable but noble task of the ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies to make corruption unattractive to its disciples and facilitate new approaches to stemming IFFS and promoting asset recovery and return.”

“The thing that we must take note of is that corruption fights back. And it is fighting back and it has the resources to do so.”

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Robbers Write Ebonyi Banks Over Planned Attack

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Fear gripped residents of Afikpo town, in the Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on Tuesday following a letter allegedly written to banks in the community by armed robbers, notifying them of a planned visit to the community.

The police, army, and other security agents in the state were said to have been mobilized to the town to repel the imminent attack.

Our correspondent, who visited the area, saw policemen and soldiers in their operational vehicles stationed at strategic locations in the community, including the entry and exit points.

The Caretaker Committee Chairman of Afikpo North LGA, Mrs Amuche Otunta, could not confirm the letter as of the time of filing this report, but said, “All I know is that there is a security threat in my local government area”.

“Have you called the DPO? Who did the robbers address the letter to? Hear from the DPO, he is the chief security officer of the local government. You said a letter was written to the community by robbers, I don’t know the community that received it.

“But to that extent, I know there is a security threat and I don’t know whether a letter was written by robbers or not,” she added.

The Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs Loveth Odah, did not take her calls when our correspondent tried to reach her for confirmation.

However, a senior police officer in Afikpo, who spoke to journalists on condition of anonymity, confirmed the letter.

He said, “You saw how we have strategized based on the tip-off? They have not come yet. We have put our men on the alert in all the beaches; Ozizza beach, Ndibe beach, on the road, everywhere, including junctions. We are still on the ground even now and we are strategizing; our men are everywhere in the town.”

A youth leader in the area, Eze Egwu, said the robbers wrote to the community.

He noted that policemen and soldiers had taken over the area.

Asked if community youths had formed a vigilante group to protect the area, Egwu said, “How can you be waiting for a well-armed man with sticks in the night or day in the name of security? We cannot risk our lives; it is only God that secures a city.”

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