The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in conjunction with the International Criminal Police Organisation have arrested a Nigerian fraudster for an alleged $60m (N18.9bn) scam.
According to a statement by the EFCC and INTERPOL, the suspect identified only as Mike, heads an international criminal network which is behind thousands of online scams including the hacking of emails.
The 40-year-old Nigerian is believed to be behind scams totalling more than $60m involving hundreds of victims worldwide. In one case, a target was conned into paying out $15.4m.
The network compromised email accounts of small and medium businesses around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the United States, with the financial victims mainly other companies dealing with these compromised accounts.
The statement added, “Heading a network of at least 40 individuals across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa which both provided malware and carried out the frauds, the alleged mastermind also had money laundering contacts in China, Europe and the US who provided bank account details for the illicit cash flow.
“Following his arrest in Port Harcourt, a forensic examination of devices seized by the EFCC showed he had been involved in a range of criminal activities including business e-mail compromise and romance scams.”
According to the anti-graft agencies, the two types of scam ran by Mike targeted businesses, and they were payment diversion fraud – where a supplier’s email would be compromised and fake messages would then be sent to the buyer with instructions for payment to a bank account under the criminal’s control – and ‘CEO fraud.’
In CEO fraud, the email account of a high-level executive is compromised and a request for a wire transfer is sent to another employee who has been identified as responsible for handling these requests. The money is then paid into a designated bank account held by the criminal.
The Head, EFCC Cybercrime Section, Abdul Chukkol, said the transnational nature of business e-mail compromise makes it complex to crack, but the arrest sent a clear signal that Nigeria could not be considered a safe haven for criminals.
“The 40-year-old, along with a 38-year-old also arrested by Nigerian authorities, faces charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences. Both are currently on administrative bail as the investigation continues,” the statement added.