The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused hotel owners of providing an enabling environment for internet fraudsters across the country.
The commission said in a statement Tuesday that the action of the hoteliers amounts to deliberate sabotage and obstruction of law enforcement officers and is punishable by Section 38 (2) (b) of the EFCC Act.
“The commission has observed a worrying pattern of cold complicity by hospitality entrepreneurs who appear to be hands-in-gloves with suspected fraudsters by housing them over long spells and making internet facilities available to them.
“While the argument is being made in certain quarters that hoteliers as business people have no means of determining who a fraudster is before allowing them to lodge in their facilities, that position runs counter to the law.
“Section 3 of the Advance Fee Fraud And Other Related Offences Act, 2006 provides for a prison term of between five and 15 years without option of fine for any person who permits his premises to be used for any offence under the Act.”
The anti-graft agency’s statement came a day after it broke into guests’ rooms at MITROS Hotel and two other lodges in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and arrested 56 persons whom they accused of being internet fraudsters.
Our reporter who visited Mitros Hotel had observed broken doors, shattered plates, and damaged furniture on the premises.
In its statement on Tuesday, the EFCC accused hotel owners and managers of not only allowing their facilities to be used by fraudsters but also deliberately shielding them from arrest by frustrating law enforcement on such premises. The commission said it would no longer tolerate such situations.
“If the hoteliers are not enablers of the alleged crimes, as some have demonstrated by offering information to the Commission, they are under obligation to cooperate with law enforcement officers carrying out their lawful duties. To act otherwise would be tantamount to willingly becoming enablers to fraud.”
The agency listed the names of those arrested during the raid in Abeokuta to include Garfar Olamide Taiwo, Fadimaye Habeeb, Badmus Idris, Samuel Victor, Seun Fuad, Alli Isaac, Oyeleke Mubarak, Bolu Soetan, Koleosho Eniola, Saheed Abidemi, Olaewe Tosin, Ayedun Idowu, Oniyitan Ayomide, Akinlabi Precious, Gbadebo Sultan, Adeyemi Habeeb, Balogun Hassan, Sulaimon Ayub Damilare, and Akinsola Usman.
Others are Ajibola Femi Sodiya, Ridwan Alani, Olusesi Lanre, Eniatimo Oludare, Taiwo Opeyemi, Akindele Kabiru Johnson Hammed, Idowu Gabriel, Adekanmi Adejumo, Peter Babatunde, Okeowo Sunday, Abudu Habeeb, Sabair Rasaq, Ademuyiwa Basit, Toriola Opeyemi, Babayode Abiola, Agbaje Habeeb, Sorinola Oluwatobiloba, Abiodun Elegbede, Kayode Daniel ,Lawal Alabi, Oyewole Korede, Aberuagba Gafar, Adekunle Emmanuel, Okunade Azeez, and Ojediran Sodiq.
“They were apprehended at their hideouts which happened to be popular hotels in the ancient city,” the commission said.
“The operation which was based on verified intelligence backed by weeks of surveillance was nearly frustrated by the hotel owners who employed various antics, including shutting down power supply, to enable some of the suspects to escape arrest.
“Despite the lack of cooperation by the hotel owners, the operatives demonstrated professionalism in ensuring that no one was hurt nor property damaged during the operations, contrary to the narrative in a section of the media.”
The agency said ten “exotic” cars, dozens of mobile phones, laptops and several incriminating documents were recovered from the suspected fraudsters.
“They will be arraigned in court as soon as the investigation is concluded.”