The Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) has denied claims that its operatives unlawfully broke into a hotel in the Lekki axis of Lagos State and attempted to arrest guests naked.
The EFCC made the rebuttal in a statement issued by Wilson Uwujaren, its Head of Media and Publicity, on Wednesday in reacting to media reports about the operation.
An online news outlet had on Tuesday reported that operatives of the anti-graft agency illegally invaded Parkitonian Hotel, Lekki in Lagos State in a bid to arrest suspected internet fraudsters.
The report claimed the EFCC operatives, in the course of carrying out its sting operation, broke into rooms, invaded the privacy of guests and forcibly attempted to arrest some of them who were naked.
But reacting, the EFCC insisted that it was “acting on verified intelligence on the activities of a suspected syndicate of internet fraudsters”, adding that it secured a legal warrant order to raid the hotel and presented it to the hotel’s management.
It stated that the issue of nudity and invasion of women’s privacy as claimed in media reports was a ploy employed by the suspects to hinder the Commission’s operatives from carrying out its lawful duties.
The anti-graft agency insisted that at no time did any of its operatives illegally enter any of the hotel’s rooms or harass any individual within the premises.
The statement read: “During the sting operation which was the culmination of weeks of surveillance during which the rooms occupied by the suspects were identified, 30 suspects were arrested with 24 of them already confessing involvement in cybercrimes and related activities.
“There was no incident as the hotel management served with the relevant Warrant offered access to the operatives, to carry out their lawful duties.
“However, in the course of the operation, the Operatives encountered women in some of the rooms who pleaded nudity to stop them from arresting their targets. This has lately become the antics of cyber fraudsters who procure ladies to plead nudity as a decoy, to allow their consort destroy incriminating items in their devices before arrest.
“The Commission will not fall for such gimmick which is intended to prevent it from carrying out its lawful duties.
“It must however be stated for emphasis, that there was no break-in, no molestation and no violence of any kind during the operation.”
The agency also berated the online outlet which originally published the story and other media organisations that republished the story without investigating or seeking to know the true position of events.
It further warned hotel operators against allowing internet fraudsters to use their facilities as operational bases.
The statement read: “Also, from the two reports, both the hotel owner and his manager were quoted as refusing to speak on the operation. But the claim is obviously a game of ostrich as their involvement in pushing out the false narrative is discernable.
“The hotel owner perhaps is ignorant of the fact that he could become an accomplice and liable for allowing his premises to be used for cybercrime, in contravention of section 3 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act. The section provides that, a ‘person who, being the occupier or is concerned in the management of any premises, causes or knowingly permits the premises to be used for any purpose which constitutes an offence under this Act is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 5 years without the option of a fine’.
“The Commission warns hoteliers from allowing their premises and facilities to become havens for cybercrime.”
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