The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has finalized plans to declare former Executive Director of National Health Insurance Scheme, Olufemi Thomas, over a $2.1 million (about N413million) suspected money laundering case.
A source at the commission said the EFCC has been on the trail of the former NHIS boss for weeks after a Bureau De Change operator, Ibiteye Bamidele, named him as the owner of a $2,198,900 cash, recovered from him by men of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
Mr. Bamidele was arrested on July 3 at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, by officials of the NDLEA.
He was then handed over to the EFCC on July 8, for further investigation.
After Mr. Bamidele named the health insurance boss as the owner of the money, all efforts by the anti-graft agency to locate Mr. Thomas has been futile.
EFCC operatives, our source said, have combed every address associated with the suspect, including his known addresses in Lagos and Abuja.
Efforts were also made to locate him at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Lagos but that was also not successful.
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the intensive search for Mr. Thomas, and the plan to declare him wanted.
He also urged anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mr. Thomas to contact the commission or the nearest police station.
Mr. Thomas was sacked as CEO of the NHIS on April 28, 2015 by then President Goodluck Jonathan and replaced by Olufemi Akingbade.
The real reason for his sudden removal remained unknown.
The NDLEA had intercepted Mr. Bamidele, the Bureau De Change operator, while he was carrying US$2,198,900 at the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos.
The suspect, 46, was apprehended on his way to Abuja, the NDLEA said.
“Preliminary investigation conducted by the Assets and Financial Investigation Directorate of the NDLEA revealed that Ibiteye’s action is in contravention of the money laundering prohibition act 2011 as amended,” the anti-narcotics agency said in the statement by Mitchell Ofoyeju, its spokesperson.
“He alleged that the money belongs to one Dr. Martins Olufemi Thomas, a medical practitioner in Lagos. Investigation conducted by the Agency did not link the money to proceeds of narcotics.
“However, a country having insurgency challenge cannot afford to ignore suspicious movement of large amount of money.”
In his statement to the NDLEA, before he was handed over to the EFCC, Mr. Ibiteye said that he is a Bureau De Change operator.
“I used to work for Ebi Bureau De Change at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja before I established my company with the name ND&C Global Investment Limited which is yet to be fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC),” he said.
“One of my clients, Dr. Martins Olufemi Thomas gave me the said amount to take to Abuja. I was arrested by NDLEA officers while checking in the money at MM2 on my way to Abuja.”
Ahmadu Giade, NDLEA Chairman, then handed over the suspect and the cash to the EFCC for further action.