The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has warned hotel owners across the country not to allow internet fraudsters use their facilities for their nefarious acts.
The agency alleged that some hoteliers were refusing to cooperate with its operatives, noting that this was an offence punishable under section 38 (2) (b) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
The commission gave the warning on Tuesday, on the heels of an operation by the Ibadan Zonal Command of the agency that led to the arrest of 56 suspected internet fraudsters in Abeokuta, Ogun state.
This was contained in a statement by the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, titled, ‘Cybercrime: EFCC warns hoteliers.’
It said the suspects 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, Akinsola Usman, and others.
The suspects were reportedly apprehended at their hideouts at some popular hotels in the ancient city.
The agency said 10 cars, dozens of mobile phones, laptops and several incriminating documents were recovered from them, adding that they would be arraigned after investigations.
Uwujaren disclosed that 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 the power supply to enable some of the suspects to escape arrest.
Despite the lack of cooperation by the hotel owners, he said 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.
He said, “Nevertheless, the action of the hoteliers amounts to deliberate sabotage and obstruction of law enforcement officers, an offence punishable by section 38 (2) (b) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
“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 the option of fine for any person who permits his premises to be used for any offence under the Act.”
The EFCC said it would not tolerate situations where hotel owners or managers not only permitted fraudsters to use their facilities but also deliberately shield them from arrest by frustrating law enforcement on such premises.
“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 commission noted.
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