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 cyber criminals 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.
It was gathered that 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, Mohammed Rabo, who confirmed the arrest.
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.”
($1 = N361.7)