Forty-five Nigerian and international passports have been recovered from a syndicate that steals travelling documents for identity theft. The syndicate, based in the Mulero… area of Agege, Lagos, according to the police, is headed by a suspect who identified himself as a 1985 graduate of Business Administration from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).

Gbenga Odudele, 49, was paraded at the Zone ‘2’ police headquarters, along with other persons suspected to have committed fraud and economic crimes. There was also the case of a fraudster, who posed as an estate agent to dupe people, who were searching for accommodation, of over N31million, and another case of three vandals caught with 1000 kegs of petroleum products.

Speaking on the passport racket, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, said his men recovered stolen British, American, ECOWAS and Nigerian passports when they raided the suspects’ base in Agege. He said that some of the passports had visas in them.

Abubakar said: “On April 2, at about 3:30p.m., detectives visited one International School of Aviation at Mulero area of Agege, where one Gbenga Odudele was arrested. After a search of his place, 42 Nigerian International Passports belonging to different persons, one United States of America International Passport, one Latvian International Passport, one polythene bag containing charms, a big envelope containing application for Visa and statements of accounts from different banks were recovered.”

Odudele told that he had been in the Visa and Passport racket for five years.

On the property agent’s case, Abubakar said a complainant, Raphael Aribisala, told the police about the activities of one Ojo Ola, who collected N500,000 promising to get a flat for him.

“Investigation commenced in earnest and detectives found that Ojo Ola had been using one Ola Ventures as his company name with other cohorts at large. He had obtained various sums of money from 75 persons totalling N31,880,000, under the pretext of renting out the same two-bedroom flat. The suspect had since squandered the money before the victims realized the folly in the transaction,” Abubakar said, adding that the suspect has been slammed with a 143-count charge.

Abubakar urged prospective tenants to be wary of the kind of agents they entrust with their money for house rent. He also called on those whose passports had been stolen to come to the police headquarters at Onikan and check if they are among the recovered ones.

Commending the police anti-vandalism team at Zone ‘2’ led by Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Friday Ibadin, Abubakar spoke of what he called “very serious economic sabotage” embarked upon by some Nigerians and displayed over 1000 kegs, filled with stolen petroleum products, recovered from vandals.

The suspects, who Abubakar identified as Kazeem Omar, Monday Ogundele and Abiodun Alade were allegedly caught siphoning petroleum products from NNPC vandalised pipeline, along Arepo area of Ogun State.

“Exhibits recovered from them included several 50-litre kegs loaded with petroleum product, one Iveco lorry with registration number XP 943 AKD and one LT 35 bus (XM 350 AGL) with which the product was conveyed. The prime suspect, one Ya-Lateef, on sighting the police, jumped into the river and efforts are on to arrest him,” Abubakar said, adding that activities of vandals could cripple the nation’s economy.