Police burst international car theft ring …Arrest 4 suspects
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