THE Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has impounded 37 brand new exotic vehicles estimated at N1.3 billion after bursting a smuggling ring.
Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) spoke on the seizures yesterday while addressing reporters at the Customs Training School in Lagos.
He said the seizures were made by officers and men of the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ Ikeja and the CGC Compliance Team in Lagos.
The vehicles, according to Ali, include eight Lexus sports utility vehicles (SUVs) – LX570, 2017 model; 12 Land Cruiser SUVs – GXR, 2017 model and 17 Toyota Hilux of 2016, 2013, 2012, 2012, 2011 and 209 models.
Ali added that his men also seized 12,081 bags of smuggled parboiled rice with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of over N149million.
It was gathered that some of the smugglers used the number plates on some of the new vehicles as a decoy to beat Customs’ checks. But unknown to them, Customs officials had been monitoring their movement for days before swooping on them.
Sources closed to the service said when some of the smugglers saw the Customs team on the unapproved routes, they abandoned the vehicles and jumped into the bush to evade arrest.
The FOU Comptroller, it was gathered, employed credible information and community relation, including collaboration other security agencies, in bursting the smugglers.
Ali said the service had not received any order from the Federal Government unbanning the importation of vehicles and rice through the land borders.
According to the Customs boss, his men also confiscated huge parcels and sacks of Indian hemp with duty paid value of N12.7 million.
The duty paid value of all seized items was over N1.6 billion
Seventeen suspects were arrested in connection with the seizures.
Eleven of the suspects, it was learnt, were released on bail. Six are still in detention.
“The 37 vehicles have a duty paid value of N1,374,122,679.00. Similarly, the 12,081 bags of smuggled parboiled rice have a duty paid value of N149,007,658.
“Apart from the seizure of vehicles and rice, the reinvigorated anti-smuggling operations yielded another 156 assorted seizures including bales of used clothing, Indian hemp and used tyres that are inimical to the health of our people and our country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Government policies banning the importation of rice and vehicles through the land borders are still in force. The Nigeria Customs Service remains resolute to work towards crippling smugglers and getting them out of the illegitimate business.
“In the face of security and economic challenges, no responsible government will fold its hand while unpatriotic elements continue to engage in illegal activities that will further compress national economic and security well-being of her people.”