Operatives of the Nigerian Customs Services, NCS, have started taking their search for vehicles without duty documents to hotels.
There was confusion among guests and staff members of Frasier Suites, Abuja, on Wednesday night as the hotel was raided by the operatives.
The Punch reported that three customs patrol vehicles marked Zone B, Federal Operation Unit and Strike Force Unit blocking the entrance of the hotel.
The armed operatives numbering over 12 impounded 11 vehicles which were mainly Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes Benz.
The vehicles were also said not to have customs duty documents.
Some of them include a black Toyota Prado SUV with number Rsh500R; a Benz SUV marked Gwa665RZ; a Lexus SUV marked Eky650FA; a Benz E Class with number ABC 592 TM and a Toyota Prado marked Abj 704CH.
Top management employees of the hotel could be seen pleading with customs officers to please move away from the gate.
The adamant customs officials were said to be acting under the instruction of the comptroller of the unit.
A customs officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they received a tip off from an informant that hotels had become the new warehouse for vehicles without duty.
He said, “We learnt that when we turned up the heat on car marts, many of these smugglers started hiding their vehicles in hotels.
“We discovered 11 exotic vehicles with unpaid duties running into millions of naira were kept in the hotel.
“It was gathered that the service also stormed some car marts and a few state liaison offices where they believed smuggled cars were being kept.
A top source at Fraiser Suite disclosed that four high end vehicles were seen at the hotel premises, adding that the owners were summoned to provide the original documents of the vehicles.
The source said,
“The customs gave the hotel management notice about the operation. They tracked down four luxury cars to the hotel premises and the owners were asked to provide the original papers showing that the necessary duties were paid on the cars.
“One of the vehicles belonged to a regular guest at the hotel while two others belonged to the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche.”
Customs operatives had also raided some car marts in the Federal Capital Territory, but the number of sealed showrooms could not be immediately ascertained.
The service had reportedly sealed car marts in Kaduna and Sokoto States on Monday, as part of the clampdown on smuggling through the land borders by the Nigerian government.
The Comptroller-General’s Strike Force and officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ in Ikeja had similarly raided and sealed car dealers’ offices in Lagos.