The long arm of the law has caught up with one of the worlds top Internet Fraudsters. The head of the international criminal network who is reportedly behind thousands of online scams totaling more than USD 60 million was arrested in Nigeria by a joint operation between the INTERPOL and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The 40-year-old Nigerian simply known as ‘Mike’ heads a crime network that comprises of at least 40 individuals spanning across Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the US.
The network compromised email accounts of small to medium businesses around the world with the financial victims mainly other companies dealing with these compromised accounts.
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 (BEC) and romance scams.
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’.
In one case, a target was conned into paying as much as USD 15.4 million.
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.
Abdul Chukkol, Head of the EFCC’s Cyber crime Section 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.
“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.”
“Mike” was arrested along with a 38-year-old, both of whom will face charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.