LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Financial crime agents arrested 21 bankers including senior executives of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the theft of $33 million worth of defaced naira currency notes, Nigerian officials said Monday.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission said a whistleblower alerted it to the "mega scam."
"The lid on the scam, which is widely suspected to have gone on unchecked for years, was blown via a petition to the EFCC alledging that over 6,575,549,370 naira was cornered and discreetly recycled by light-fingered top executives of the CBN," a statement said.
Among the suspects are officers from eight commercial banks in Nigeria, including bank leaders Ecobank and Zenith Bank, it said.
The fraud involved using cut-up pieces of newspaper to replace notes in Nigeria's naira currency that had been designated for destruction at the Central Bank. It charged the commercial bank officers then helped put the defaced and mutilated notes back into circulation.
Those arrested will be charged on five counts in a federal high court this week, the statement said.
Nigeria's newly installed President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to fight Nigeria's endemic corruption and graft.