The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alerted the public to the new tricks used by car thieves to dispossess unsuspecting Nigerians of their vehicles. The alert, the commission said, was borne out of investigations into alleged crime levelled against a suspected car thief, Babatunde Oluwatope Oni (aka Olu Daniel, Oni Daniel Oluwatope).
Babatunde, who hails from Odo Eri in Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State, was arrested by the Ibadan zonal office of the commission for alleged conspiracy, stealing and issuance of a dud cheque.
This followed a petition the EFCC said it received from a car dealer, Mr. Kamoru Yekini, on November 21, last year.
The petitioner alleged that on October 16, last year, two men approached him at his shop in Iwo town of Osun State, indicating interest to buy a 2006 Toyota Matrix car he displayed for sale.
After negotiation on the price, the two parties reportedly agreed on N1,580,000.00, and a post-dated First Bank cheque was said to have been issued to cover the cost. The cheque bore the name of Rabiu Bamidele Lateef as the account owner.
It was learnt that Babatunde allegedly acted as a driver to the other (fleeing) suspect with whom he negotiated to buy the car. The other man was said to have falsely introduced himself as the account owner and a doctor at Bowen University, Iwo.
After agreeing on the price, Bamidele reportedly left the scene to “deposit” the money and later returned with a copy of the deposit slip as evidence of payment.
Though not comfortable with the payment arrangement, the car dealer was said to have reluctantly released the vehicle and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) duty papers, hoping that he would contact the “buyer” through his phone number, should any issue arise.
It was learnt that the car dealer got a call from his bank the following day that the cheque had been returned unpaid due to insufficient funds.
Yekini’s efforts to get the suspects proved abortive as the information they provided was said to be false.
This propelled him to petition the EFCC for assistance.
The commission reportedly recovered the car in Abuja, the nation’s capital, where it had been sold to a lady for N1,800,000.00. Further investigations, the EFCC said, tracked the car back to Babatunde, who was arrested in his hideout in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
While Babatunde was in the EFCC’s custody, another complainant was said to have surfaced with a similar issue.
According to the complainant, on September 7, last year, two men were at his filling station at Mokola, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to negotiate for a 2007 Toyota Avensis car he displayed.
He alleged that after the negotiation, the “intending buyers” agreed to pay N2,000,000.00. Again, Bamidele reportedly issued a cheque to pay for the car.
Just as he did in the other case, Babatunde also acted as the driver to the “big man” he accompanied.
The suspect took the cheque to the seller’s bank to “deposit” the money and came back with a deposit slip.
While they were testing the car, the car dealer told the suspects to hold on for him to confirm the status of the deposit from his account officer.
But before he could do so, Bamidele and his partner zoomed off with the car, since its keys and papers had been handed over to them.
The cheque with which he made the “payment” was returned unpaid and efforts to contact the men were abortive.
EFCC said its investigation revealed that Babatunde’s modus operandi was to issue dud cheques to car dealers and abscond with the vehicles.
Such cheques were said to have either been stolen from unsuspecting persons or were linked to phoney accounts.
The EFCC said the cheque bearing the name of Rabiu Bamidele Lateef was stolen, adding that the owner, a pastor, had made statement to the commission to deny knowledge of issuance of his cheque for the transaction.
Apart from stealing people’s cheques and issuing dud cheques to commit fraud, the commission said its investigations also revealed that Bamidele often used fictitious names in some of his transactions.
When asked about the identities of his accomplices, Bamidele reportedly gave the name of Santar Ademola, said to have died.
The suspect was said to have committed a similar offence in 2017, when he was prosecuted by a sister agency for car theft.
But he was reportedly released from prison custody when the complainant stopped showing interest.
“Members of the public are, by this report, advised to be wary when transacting business with people they do not know.
“The commission is making frantic efforts to get other culprits arrested. They will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded,” EFCC said.