The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has watch-listed the Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Osaze Osemwingie-Ero, with the International Police (INTERPOL).
He was said to have been intercepted in France with $2million cash, which contravenes money laundering standards.
But, other sources said he was arrested by INTERPOL as part of an investigation of cult activities in Europe.
EFCC detectives are profiling Osemwingie-Ero’s accounts and are probing how he left Nigeria with the huge cash, if indeed true.
It was learnt that the EFCC may freeze his accounts.
A top source within the anti-graft agency said that “The EFCC has written INTERPOL to place Ero on watch-list, which will enable the agency to repatriate the commissioner back to Nigeria.
“The essence of the watch-list with INTERPOL is also to indicate Nigeria’s interest in the case. With this, the INTERPOL will not release him until it is time to bring him back to the country.
“Detectives are already screening the accounts of Ero to ascertain the sources of the $2million, which he was suspected to have laundered to France. We may likely freeze all his accounts as part of the ongoing profiling of the commissioner.
“It is going to be a comprehensive investigation, including how he obtained official permission to travel; for what purpose; what payment did he receive officially; his point of exit and final destination among others.
“Preliminary clues pointed to a likely laundering of official funds. How he came about the cash is what detectives have been mandated to probe.
“We will surely crack the sources of the funds in collaboration with other strategic agencies. So far, Ero has no antecedents of being a businessman or an investor.”
Some top government officials said on Tuesday that Osemwingie-Ero was not arrested for money laundering.
The sources said Osemwingie-Ero was arrested in Amsterdam, Holland and not France.
It was gathered that the commissioner was arrested as part of INTERPOL’s investigation into cult activities in Europe.
His detention was said to be in connection with the arrest of some Nigerians in Italy for prostitution, racketeering, cultism, pimping and other offences.
A source said Osemwingie-Ero was among some prominent Nigerians named by the suspects as a ring leader.
Osemwingie-Ero was said not to be aware that he was on INTERPOL’s wanted list until he was arrested.
An associate said: “Investigation is over. Mr Osemwingie-Ero will soon be home. There is nothing like money laundering or dollar haulage to France as peddled by and believed by some enemies of Governor Obaseki.”
Edo State Government on Monday said it could not confirm whether or not operatives of INTERPOL arrested Osemwingie-Ero.
It was also claimed the money was given to him by Obaseki when he accompanied him on a foreign trip. But, the state government said Osemwingie-Ero’s arrest had nothing to do with the governor.
The Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said the state government could not confirm the arrest.
“We learnt about the alleged arrest from unreliable sources on social media and we are unable to confirm either the alleged arrest or what might have led to it.
- “But, we can confirm without equivocation that whatever the issues might be, they are personal and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Edo State Government or Governor Godwin Obaseki,” he said.