A 40-year-old Nigerian man suspected to be the ringleader of a network of Internet scampers who have swindled as much as about $60m from unsuspecting individuals has been arrested in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
The report, according to the international police organisation, identified the suspected ringleader of the online scam syndicate as ‘Mike’.
The arrest of the suspected crime lord comes after a collaborative effort between the INTERPOL and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The crime syndicate whose network compromised email accounts of small to medium businesses around the world with major impacts in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the US was revealed to have conned an unsuspecting individual of a total sum of $15.4m.
The alleged kingpin, Mike, was also revealed to be involved in money laundering operations in China, Europe and the US where he facilitates illicit cash flows.
Forensic examination of Mike’s devices which were seized during his arrest revealed that he was also involved in other criminal activities including business e-mail compromise (BEC) and romance scams.
He was identified to have carved a niche of two main types of scam which include payment diversion and CEO fraud.
The main two types of scam run by the 40-year-old targeted businesses 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’.
The EFCC’s Cybercrime Section head, Abdul Chukkol, revealed that the nature of the business e-mail compromise scam makes the illegal act complex to trace.
He said: “For a long time we have said in order to be effective, the fight against cybercrime must rely on public-private partnerships and international cooperation.
“The success of this operation is the result of close cooperation between INTERPOL and the EFCC, whose understanding of the Nigerian environment made it possible to disrupt the criminal organization’s network traversing many countries, targeting individuals and companies”.
40-year-old Mike was arrested along with a 38-year-old and both are faced with charges bordering on hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences.