The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has spoken on its raid on Fraser Suites in Abuja on Wednesday.
DC Joseph Attah, Customs Public Relations Officer, in a statement he sent to newsmen, said the agency acted on intelligence that owners of some exotic cars (including bullet proof) without duty payment, removed their vehicles from a car mart and took same to the hotel.
According to him, the team visited the facility and engaged the manager professionally.
Attah said: “On arrival at the hotel, our operatives interacted with the manager and eventually left with 4 vehicles leaving 6 behind, while expecting the manager to provide the keys to the cars left behind.
“However, the manager this morning gave a written undertaking to produce a Customs vehicle duty payment documents to support his claim that the vehicles were not smuggled.
“We assured him of prompt release of the vehicles as soon as evidence of appropriate duty payments are presented.
“We woke up to mischievous misrepresentation of an otherwise professional engagement with the manager that had nothing to do with the guests in the hotel.
“Some even went as far as saying that the operatives went from room to room waking up guests to come out for vehicle verification. NCS did not do such a thing and has no intention to start raiding hotels. Our operatives never infringed on the rights and comfort of guests in the hotel”.
An eyewitness had told newsmen that legal luminary, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) was harassed during the operation.
He said: “On Thursday morning, they (operatives) went straight to a grey coloured Lexus LX 570 SUV and spoke to the driver and Chief Wole Olanipekun’s PA, who showed them the vehicle papers.
“In the process, he came out of the hotel heading to the court. A senior Customs officer exchanged words with him, because the official made several calls and insisted the vehicle should not leave the premises.
“This angered the Senior Advocate who called the hotel to arrange for an alternative car since he was late for the court. He was eventually driven in a small Honda Civic car out of the premises.”
The Fraser Suites operation came a few days after NCS operatives raided some popular car marts in Lagos.
The Comptroller General’s Strike Force and officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’, Ikeja stormed Berger along Apapa-Oshodi Express Road and other premises across the state.
Many of them were closed on the orders of the Comptroller General of the Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), for allegedly retailing smuggled vehicles in the shops.
Among those affected were Affordable Cars Limited, Carlink Limited, Ineh Mic Autos, Globe Motors, Coscharis, Skymit Motors, Arrowhead Motors, Wonder Wheels Motors, Auto Point Motors and Stallion Motors.
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