Nicholas Edos and Prince Hallowell, returning from Austria and Greece respectively, were intercepted during an inward screening of passengers on a Turkish airline flight.
The NDLEA in a statement on Wednesday said the “suspected laundered money” was hidden inside envelopes and shoes. While Mr. Edos was caught with €279,190, Mr. Hallowell was found with €46,450 and $30,000.
But the suspects said they received the money from their Europe-based friends to give to their different families and relatives in Nigeria.
Muhammad Abdallah, Chairman of NDLEA, said the arrest was a suspected case of money laundering, adding that it had been handed over to Victoria Egbase, the Director of Assets and Financial Investigation of the agency, for further investigation.
“Criminal groups seek to conceal the origin of illegally obtained money,” said Mr. Abdallah, a retired colonel.
“It is pertinent therefore for us to trace the origin of the money and prevent the introduction of criminal funds into the economy.
“Consequently, I have directed that the case be meticulously investigated.”
Preliminary investigation, according to the NDLEA, showed that both suspects are frequent travellers who are the target of International Drug Trafficking Organisations.
“Besides, their sources of income must be verified,” the agency said.
Mr. Edos, who said he was working in a bakery in Austria, said the money found on him did not belong to him.
“I was given by different people in Europe to give to their relatives. I have been living in Vienna Austria for over 15 years,” the NDLEA quoted Mr. Edos, who hails from Edo State, as saying.
The agency also quoted Mr. Hallowell as saying the money belonged to people sending money to their families back in Nigeria.
“I live in Athens and I work in an African shop,” Mr. Hallowell said in the statement.
“I have lived there for 12 years. The money belongs to many people and some of them are my friends.”
Mr. Abdallah said the cases would be thoroughly investigated and necessary action taken as laundered funds could be used to finance terrorism and distort the economy among others.