Police detectives attached to the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Milverton, Lagos State, have arrested some men, who posed as international businessmen, members of House of Representatives and members of Benin Kingdom’s royal family to defraud a former lawmaker of $1.5 million.
Investigation of the suspects started on July 28, 2017 with a crack team of detectives going to Murtala International Airport, Lagos State, to arrest the syndicate’s leader identified as Franklin Osiemwonyi Izekor, 45, aka Prince Joshua Akenzua.
It was learnt that rather than follow the policemen, Izekor resisted arrest, fought the policemen and even attempted to abduct one of the policemen in his car.
Although the lawmaker, Eseme Eyiboh, told detectives that he was swindled of over $1.5 million, Izekor insisted that the money was just $1 million and another N47 million.
A police source said: “The amount of money involved in this scam is no longer the issue. What’s important is that the principal suspect, Franklin Osiemwonyi Izekor, who was posing as a prince of Oba of Benin, admitted that he actually defrauded the victim.”
Aside Izekor, other members of the syndicate are Stephen Victor aka James Ajayi, Bolade Babatunde aka Honourable Lawal Adewunmi, Tola aka Peter Ajayi (still at large) and Alhaji Saka Jimoh (67).
How the syndicate was able to zero in on the lawmaker is still nebulous, however, it was learnt that trouble started for Eyiboh after he landed a juicy contract with Exxon Mobil.
He needed some items, which were mostly overseas to execute the contract. The lawmaker was aware that there is an anti-bulk movement of money treaty, including dollars, which Nigeria is a signatory to. He was not too sure how to get the vital items from overseas, especially since he couldn’t transfer bulk dollars.
One day, he received a phone call from his colleague Honourable Lawal Adewunmi (Bolade Babatunde), who was also a member of the House of Representatives. He didn’t know that he was speaking with a fake ‘Honourable Lawal Adewunmi.’
‘Adewunmi’ exchanged pleasantries and soon delved into businesses. Eyiboh, thinking he was speaking with a concerned friend, spilled out his gut and his present contract. ‘Adewunmi’ then promised to link him up with some international businessmen, who were agents of a company called ‘International Foreign Exchange Monitoring Agency. Eyiboh was made to believe that it was an international money order organisation and an affiliate of American Forex Organisation with address at Plot 16, Agbara Estate, Ogun State. The syndicate convinced Eyiboh to part with $30,000 which was supposed to be money for him to be part of the organisation. After paying the money, he was given a registration form to fill and return.
A member of the syndicate, Stephen Victor, who called and introduced himself as James Ajayi, met with Eyiboh at his residence in Abuja, where he used the opportunity to screw every loose nuts into place, drawing the lawmaker completely into their web of deceit.
Eyiboh later alleged that Izekor presented himself as Prince Joshua Akenzua, representing International Foreign Exchange Monitoring Agency, which could assist him to acquire some equipment needed to execute a contract he won with Exxon Mobil.
“The lawmaker said that he paid N47,133,000, through four bank accounts. Later, Izekor collected $45,000 in cash from him,” the police source added.
On August 8, 2017, Izekor was arrested at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, while trying to collect more money from Eyiboh. Izekor’s statement was later used to arrest Stephen and Babatunde.
“Investigation revealed that Izekor, Babatunde, Stephen and Tola conspired to fraudulently obtain from the complainant various sums of money amounting to N47,133,000 and $45,000.
The suspects confessed to sharing proceeds of the crime on equal basis,” said police source.
While fielding questions from police, Izekor, from Edo State, said that he was into Real Estate Business and that he was a single father with four children.
He reportedly said: “In 2016, I got a call from Eyiboh that he had a congealed chemical and N17.5 million defaced black notes in his custody at home.
I went to Abuja to inspect the defaced notes. Thereafter, I gave him account to pay the money into. The account of Ahmed Abubakar, Alakawa Venture, Ihaka World General Investment Limited; I collected up to $40,000 to get the chemical to clear the defaced currency. I showed Eyiboh an identity card of International Foreign Exchange Monitoring Agency as its agent.”
Izekor further told the police that he didn’t know the office of the agency, which he claimed to represent. He further claimed to have gone to a hotel at Osolo Way, Ajao Estate on the invitation of Eyiboh and was shown black papers cut-to-size.
He told police that he collected all the money paid by Eyiboh through provided Bureau De Change accounts.
On August 28, 2017, Izekor returned N2 million to Eyiboh, while on September 13, 2017, N400,000 was paid. Also on September 19, 2017, additional N2 million was paid.
Babatunde, 57, from Ondo State, also claimed to be into Real Estate business.
He told the police: “It was Izekor that called me that he had a job for me. He said that I should call Eyiboh and present myself as Honourable Lawal Adewunmi. I should say that Peter Ajayi (Tola) called me from overseas that I should assist him in buying property in Nigeria. Stephen Victor took the money to Izekor, who came on as a solution man to clean the defaced dollars. I’m the person that used to go and collect money. The total money collected so far is $60,000. It’s Stephen that used to share the money.”
Babatunde added that he used his share of the money to pay his children’s school fees, bought plots of land, blocks to build a house, acquired more land which he used for planting of plantain and cassava. He also admitted that it was Izekor who brought Eyiboh to him. The suspect said he had intention to pay back the money, but needed to put his finances in order first.
Stephen, 46, from Edo State, explained that Tola, who happened to be his friend, asked him to go to Abuja and present himself to the lawmaker as James Ajayi, younger brother to Tola. The said Tola had earlier presented himself to Eyiboh as Peter Ajayi.
He reportedly said: “After meeting with the lawmaker, I was given a phone number to call. The lawmaker later stopped picking my calls. I knew that Izekor was collecting money from the lawmaker, which was shared among the four of us. We have collected over $60,000 from the lawmaker. I can’t say exactly how much I got, but I got my first share payment in June 2016. All other payments were brought by hand by Izekor.”
In the course of investigation, detectives discovered that all the bank account details, where the monies were paid into, were given to Izekor by Alhaji Saka Jimoh, a Bureau De Change operator at Obi Shopping Complex, Ikeja, Lagos.
“This Jimoh introduced Izekor to the owner of the accounts and Bureau De Change operators as Honourable Eseme Eyiboh. The money collected was under the pretext of supplying industrial machine for pipeline cleaning to execute contract awarded to Eyiboh in 2016,” the police noted.
The suspects were arraigned before the Federal High Court, Lagos on January 8.
They were arraigned before Justice Muslim Hassan. The SFU in a charge marked FHC/L/435c/2017, filed before the court by Mr. Emmanuel Jackson, a Chief Superintendent of Police, alleged that, “the accused persons and others now at large had between June 2016 and August 2017, at Jatoz Royal Hotel, Osolo Way, Ajao Estate, Lagos, conspired among themselves, and presented themselves to Honourable Eseme Sunday Eyiboh, a former House of Representatives member from Eket Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State, as accredited representatives of International Foreign Exchange Monitoring Agency/Bureau, in Nigeria.”
The prosecutor, Emmanuel Jackson, told the court that the defendants acted contrary to Sections 8(a), 1(1)(a) and 8(9) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, No.14 of 2006 and were liable to be punished under Section 1(3) of the same law.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, following which their counsel pleaded with the court to grant them bail. The prosecutor, however, opposed the bail application. The case was adjourned.