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NDLEA intercepts largest consignment of heroin at Lagos airport

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has uncovered and smashed a transcontinental cartel which specialises in trafficking heroin across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe…

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has uncovered and smashed a transcontinental cartel which specialises in trafficking heroin across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe and America and arrested four members of the cartel in a coordinated operation which lasted 12 days, culminating in the seizure of the single largest consignment of heroin at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.

The Chairman of NDLEA, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd), who disclosed this at the airport on Tuesday, said that 11 members of the cartel had been declared wanted while 107 bank accounts had been blocked.

Marwa explained that the operation started on February 10, 2024, when NDLEA operatives at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s cargo terminal.

He said the consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2,300-watt metal cutting machines with each carton stocked with three blocks of high-grade heroin and that in total they recovered 45 blocks of the illicit substance with a total weight of 49.70kg.

He further said, “After the discovery, we were methodical and meticulous in our investigation. 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. 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. At this point, it was clear that we are dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time we were done exploring various leads we had, we unravelled an organised 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 codenames, showing that they belonged to different members of this organised criminal group. 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 Suites, 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 baron, 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 51.90kg.

“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, from 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 noted that, “There is a parallel between this seizure and the September 18, 2022, seizure of 2,139.5kg cocaine in an Ikorodu warehouse. That was the biggest singular cocaine seizure in the history of NDLEA. This present bust is the largest single heroin seizure at the MMIA so far.”

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