The suspects are Hammed Ajagba, 30; Taviu Polen, aka Popo, 35; Batan Remmy, 30; and an herbalist, Rasheed Akinola, who prepared charms for the gang and helped them in smuggling guns into Nigeria.
It was learnt that the bandits had trailed one Olayinka Oyebola to the Zenith Bank Automated Teller Machine gallery on Ajose Adeogun, Victoria Island, around 9am on January 20.
They reportedly lay in ambush as the man withdrew cash from the ATM.
He was about to leave the place in his Toyota Prado Jeep with the number plate, LSR 677 DF, when they attacked at gunpoint and dragged him from the driver’s seat.
It was learnt that they dispossessed him of a Samsung Galaxy phone, a laptop and a sum of N45,000.
They thereafter put him in the back seat of his Jeep and drove him away.
The police said the assailants dropped off their victim on the Lekki-Epe Expressway and headed for Ikoyi, where they snatched another Toyota Prado Jeep with the number plate, ABC 853 LK.
The occupants of the vehicle, a couple, were said to have parked by the roadside opposite Southern Sun Hotel to buy barbecued meat.
As they wanted to enter the vehicle to continue their journey, the gang reportedly ordered them to the back seat and drove off.
It was gathered that the wife suddenly opened the door and jumped out of the vehicle when the robbers were held in a traffic, while her husband, Fidel Onwodi, was freed on the Third Mainland Bridge.
The attackers were said to have abandoned the first stolen Jeep, suspected to have a tracking device, at Babatunde Crescent, Oniru, VI, and took the second one to Cotonou, Benin Republic, where it was reportedly sold to the dealer, identified as Benoit.
The robbers, however, met their Waterloo on February 11 in a botched operation at Mile 2, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
The state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, while parading the suspects on Tuesday at the command headquarters in Ikeja, said the abandoned Jeep had been recovered by the police.
He said, “After a careful analysis of intelligence information available to the command, the undercover operatives were activated and dispatched. Their efforts paid off on Sunday, February 11, when they intercepted the trans-border robbers at Mile 2 while on a mission to snatch another exotic car.
“The suspects confessed to a series of robberies during which exotic cars were snatched at gunpoints. They also confessed that Mr. Fidel Onwodi’s Jeep is in Cotonou.
“One AK-49 rifle with serial number PE-2473; 43 AK-49 pieces of live ammunition; one locally-made cut-to-size double-barrelled gun; six live cartridges; one number plate, JD 697 KJA and assorted charms were recovered from the suspects.”
The CP added that efforts were ongoing to apprehend other fleeing members of the gang and recover the Jeep.
One of the suspects, Ajagba, told newsmen that he was familiar with the Lagos terrain and invited other gang members from Benin Republic for the operations.
Ajagba, who spoke through an interpreter, said, “I took the stolen vehicles to Benoit and he gave me money. He gave me CFA300,000 for a car and CFA1m for the Toyota Prado Jeep. He sent me to steal the vehicles. I was arrested with some of my members during my second operation in Lagos.”
Polen confessed to have participated in the snatching of the Jeeps, adding that he had not got his share of the proceeds before they were arrested.
He said, “Hammed (Ajagba) invited us for the Prado Jeep operation from Benin Republic and he received us at Mile 2. I was the one who drove our operational vehicle on the day we snatched the two Jeeps. But we were only able to take one to Cotonou. I don’t know the person Hammed sold the Jeep to. He said the person had not paid him.”
The herbalist, who spoke in Yoruba, said on the day they were arrested, he had foreseen danger and advised the gang to shelve the operation.
He said, “It was Popo (Polen) who brought the gang members to me to fortify them with charms against attacks. I helped them to move the guns through the border. They gave me CFA60,000 after the first operation and CFA70,000 after they snatched the Jeeps.
“After I handed over the guns to them at Mile 2 in preparation for another operation, I made some spiritual consultations and told them that they should postpone the operation. We were about to leave the scene when the police came and arrested us.”
Apart from the gang, suspected fraudsters who hacked into people’s bank accounts were paraded along with an Infinix Hot phone, laptops, a bag, two chargers and 10 SIM cards allegedly recovered from them.
The CP said operatives of the Rapid Response Squad of the state police command tracked down the suspects following a report of illegal withdrawals from the account of a woman identified as Yinka.
He said, “On February 7, 2018, around 6pm, one Kemi Benson of Alhaji Sunny compound, Egbeda, Lagos, reported to the police that on January 20, around 5pm, she held a birthday party for her son. When the party was in full swing, a phone belonging to her sister, Yinka, was stolen.
“The victim, in her own account, stated that she went to the service provider for a SIM card replacement and that immediately she inserted the new card into her new phone, she started receiving transaction alerts. A total of N1,153,000 was withdrawn from her account in FCMB.”
Imohimi explained that the money was transferred into three accounts, adding that one Muritala Muhammed, aka Swallow, was the ringleader of the syndicate.
He identified other suspects as Nwanze Ifeanyi, Martin Achi, Solomon Dike, Samson Mustapha and Ali Hassan.
All the suspects, except Hassan, confessed to the various roles they played in the fraud when interviewed by our correspondent.
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