Economic crimes: Travel agents rent out Int’l Air tickets for fake travellers to buy BTA

Tough times await travel agencies involved in the crime of issuing air tickets to unscrupulous people for the fraudulent purchase of Business Travel Allowance, (BTA), with same tickets subsequently voided once the fraud has been committed. 

Reports indicate that henceforth, such travel agencies may not only have their operating licenses withdrawn, but the travellers involved in the fraud may also risk being listed on the aviation security ‘no-fly list’ shared with the government security agencies on the aviation (airports/airlines) security defence layers. 

The latest is coming after the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global clearing house for airlines had alerted the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) on how some members of the association according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had continued to engage in the economic sabotage of the country by colluding with unpatriotic fellows to issue them BTA through the back door. 

According to a letter, which emanated from IATA dated, 23rd September, 2021 and addressed to the President of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye by the head of Account Management, West and Central Africa (IATA), Dr. Samson Fatokun, titled: ‘Issuance of Tickets for Fraudulent Purchase of BTA’, stated: “The CBN called my attention to the criminal practice of air tickets being issued to unscrupulous persons for the fraudulent purchase of BTA and same tickets are voided the same day once the economic fraud has been committed. This nefarious activity amounts to economic sabotage as it constitutes a leakage in the CBN foreign exchange supply system. 

“Issuing tickets for the sole purpose of purchasing BTA and voiding those tickets thereafter, termed: ‘Ticket renting’, is fraudulent and amounts to participating in economic sabotage. You are advised to alert your members about this fraudulent practice and whichever agent that might be involved in this economic sabotage to desist from it”. 

Following the revelation. information gathered has shown that at a prolonged emergency meeting held between NANTA and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), where the issue was deliberated upon, the regulatory agency has concluded plans to descend heavily on any agency found culpable in the criminality. 

The meeting according to the spokesperson of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, was for fact-finding and to seek the support of NANTA to fish out the bad eggs within their fold who are notorious for engaging in the corrupt practices. 

Speaking with newsmen, the President of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye exonerated her members from the illegality but pointed accusing fingers at those she categorised as non-registered travel agencies who are not under the authority of NANTA. 

All efforts to get reactions from the CBN Corporate Unit failed, as the officials are rather than elaborate on it claimed the apex bank body had “addressed this issue succinctly during the post monetary policy meeting briefing held earlier”. 

However,  since the corrupt practice was exposed, the CBN had directed all commercial banks to publish on their websites, the names and Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) of customers who participate in such fraudulent and unscrupulous tactics to obtain foreign exchange from banks. 

This was stated in a circular titled: “Publication of names of Defaulters of a CBN policy on sale of Forex for PTA/ BTA” and signed by the bank’s Director, Banking Supervision Department, Haruna Mustafa. 

According to the CBN, such fraudulent acts include: the use of fake visas and the cancellation of air tickets following the purchase of Personal Travel Allowance and Business Travel Allowance. While some of the commercial banks have started implementing the CBN directives, the NCAA, in conjunction with NANTA, has swung into action to not only fish out the culpable travel agencies but also deal with them.

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