Nigerian Behind $60m Online Fraud Network Arrested | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Nigerian Behind $60m Online Fraud Network Arrested

email, cybercrime, Nigeria, online fraud
Posted: Aug 2, 2016 at 6:16 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chukwudi Nweje

Lagos – A 40-year-old man believed to be the brain behind scams totalling more than US$60 million involving hundreds of victims around the world has been arrested.

Interpol and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the suspect in Port Harcourt in a joint operation in June.

The suspect, known as Mike, operated on a network that compromised email accounts of small to medium businesses around the world including in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the US, with the financial victims mainly other companies dealing with these compromised accounts.

He is said to have headed a network of at least 40 individuals across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa, which both provided malware and carried out the frauds.

He is said to have money-laundering contacts in China, Europe and the US who provided bank account details for the illicit cash flow.

A forensic examination of devices seized from him showed he had been involved in a range of criminal activities including business e-mail compromise (BEC) and romance scams.

The suspect specialised in two types of fraud-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’, which entailed using a cloned email account of a high-level executive to request a wire transfer is sent to another employee.

EFCC said that the said Mike first came into its radar through a report provided to Interpol by Trend Micro, one of its strategic partners at the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore.

“This, combined with actionable analysis and intelligence from Fortinet Fortiguard Labs in 2015, enabled specialists at the Interpol Digital Crime Centre, including experts from Cyber Defence Institute based at the IGCI, and the EFCC to locate the suspect in Nigeria, resulting in his arrest in June,” Abdul Chukkol, Head of the EFCC’s Cybercrime Section said.

The anti-graft agency said that the transnational nature of business e-mail compromise made it complex to crack, and added that the arrest of Mike “sent a clear signal that Nigeria could not be considered a safe haven for criminals.

“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 organisation’s network traversing many countries, targeting individuals and companies,” the EFCC Head of Cybercrime said.

Noboru Nakatani, Executive Director of the IGCI, warned that BEC poses a significant and growing threat, with tens of thousands of companies victimised in recent years.

“The public, and especially businesses, need to be alert to this type of cyber-enabled fraud.

“Basic security protocols such as two-factor authentication and verification by other means before making a money transfer are essential to reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams.

“It is exactly through this type of public and private sector cooperation that Interpol will continue to help member countries in bringing cybercriminals to justice no matter where they are,” Mr. Nakatani said.

Mike, arrested alongside another 38-year-old, faces charges that include hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences.

Both are currently on administrative bail as the investigation continues.