Po­lice burst in­ter­na­tional car theft ring …Ar­rest 4 sus­pects

Daily Trust - - CRIME - From Eu­gene Agha, Lagos

The po­lice in Lagos have tracked down an in­ter­na­tional car theft ring op­er­at­ing be­tween Nige­ria and Benin Re­pub­lic.

Four sus­pects were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the cross bor­der crime.

They are ac­cused of steal­ing cars from Nige­ria and mov­ing them to neigh­bor­ing Re­pub­lic of Benin. The po­lice listed some of the cars al­ready stolen by the gang to in­clude fast mov­ing Sports Util­ity Ve­hi­cles( SUVs), rang­ing from Honda, Lexus, Camry, Audi, Range Rover Spot and Land Rover Spot.

Po­lice sources hinted that the cars were stolen from their own­ers at gun point and even­tu­ally smug­gled across the bor­ders through Idiroko and Seme both in Ogun and Lagos states to wait­ing buy­ers in hid­den places in Benin Re­pub­lic, from where they are resold to un­sus­pect­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic from Nige­ria.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that since the sus­pected leader of the no­to­ri­ous cross bor­der crim­i­nal gang, one Ha­mani Tid­jani, was ar­rested and trans­ported to Nige­ria to an­swer charges lev­eled against him by the Nige­ria Po­lice, some splin­ter gangs have emerged from the former group.

Po­lice source al­leged that one of the gangs is led by a Beni­nois sus­pected re­ceiver of stolen ve­hi­cles iden­ti­fied as Raol De­davi. He is said to be based in Cotonou, while his al­leged Nige­rian ac­com­plices, Pe­ter Adebayo, Az­iza Ak­waebu and Ekeocha Bright re­side in Lagos.

Raol De­davi, Pe­ter Adebayo, Az­iza Ak­waebu and Ekeocha Bright were al­leged to have suc­cess­fully stolen ex­otic cars from Lagos, Abuja, Port Har­court and other parts of the coun­try worth sev­eral mil­lions of naira.

A po­lice source at the com­mand head­quar­ters, Ikeja, told Daily Trust that the author­i­ties re­cently put the brakes on the in­ter­na­tional car smug­gling op­er­a­tion.

The source said those ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the crime have since been charged to court, adding that ef­forts are on to ar­rest oth­ers.

The source re­vealed that the gang was in­volved in an elab­o­rate scheme that re­tagged and trans­ported hot cars us­ing forged doc­u­ments to Benin Re­pub­lic.

The source, who craved anonymity, said at the cen­tre of the crime, was a Beni­nois man, Raol De­davi, who has lots of con­tacts with splin­ter crim­i­nal gangs in Nige­ria.

Raol is said to own a garage with high fence for hid­ing stolen ve­hi­cles, where the fea­tures and the doc­u­ments of the ve­hi­cles are al­tered and pro­vided with im­port doc­u­ments show­ing fake coun­tries of ori­gin in Europe and Amer­ica.

The source ex­plained that the cars were taken in a va­ri­ety of ways, with those stolen from park­ing lots taken with the use of du­pli­cate keys.

In his con­fes­sional state­ment, Raol ad­mit­ted that he worked hard to en­sure that the ship­ment ap­peared law­ful at all stages.

He ex­plained that the guy be­hind the wheel would first drive the stolen car to­wards Ibadan to “shake off” any po­lice pur­suit and then make a u-turn, head­ing back to any vil­lage at the bor­der un­til the heat cooled off.

An­other po­lice source at the Spe­cial Anti-Rob­bery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos Com­mand where the sus­pects were de­tained al­leged that the gang was be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble for the dis­ap­pear­ance of at least 20 ve­hi­cles re­cently.

He said that po­lice author­ity in the state be­lieve that about 40 per­cent of those ve­hi­cles were ob­tained through car­jack­ings, gun-point rob­beries or theft, mostly in and around Ikeja, Vic­to­ria Is­land, Ikoyi and Abuja.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into how the gang operates started about two years ago af­ter a Toy­ota Venza car was re­moved from Ojodu Berger in a car shop, the po­lice source fur­ther hinted.

The po­lice team was able to track the stolen ve­hi­cle to Seme bor­der, Bada­gry from where Raol was ar­rested.

The Lagos State Po­lice Com­mand’s Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer, Joe Of­for, a Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent, who con­firmed the ar­rest of Raol along with Pe­ter Adebayo, Az­iza Ak­waebu and Ekeocha Bright, said that the mat­ter was trans­ferred from Area ‘H’, Ogudu area com­mand, Lagos, to SARS for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

He ex­plained that Ekeocha and Az­iza, who were first ar­rested, were also moved to SARS.

On in­ter­ro­ga­tion, they con­fessed to have taken part in the snatch­ing of the car at a car shop in Ojodu Berger area of Lagos in De­cem­ber, 2014.

Raol, 42, con­fessed to have been ar­rested by the po­lice some­time ago for spon­sor­ing and buy­ing stolen ve­hi­cles from Nige­ria.

“When SARS ar­rested me last year, it was be­cause of six stolen ve­hi­cles I re­ceived from Nige­ria and sold in Cotonou.

“I have sold six stolen cars be­fore SARS ar­rested me last year. One Alinca sup­plied me with stolen cars. This Venza that led to my sec­ond ar­rest, I in­tend to sell it for N2 mil­lion. I bought it N1.1mil­lion. In De­cem­ber 2014, I re­ceived three stolen cars. SARS ar­rested me in Novem­ber 2013 over stolen ve­hi­cles. I was re­leased on bail in March 2014.

“Be­fore SARS ar­rest me at Seme, they tried all the tricks to make me leave the Benin part of the bor­der to Seme but did not suc­ceed un­til they used my cus­tomer to lure me. He pre­tended to have a Legen Jeep for sale. That was how I was ar­rested at the Nige­rian end of the bor­der,’’ he said.

Solomon Arase IGP

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