A Lagos High Court, Ikeja has sentenced a 25 year-old Computer Science graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun state, Adewale Arije, to 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine for defrauding an American company to the tune of N16million.
The Judge, Justice M.O. Obadina also ordered that goods recovered from the convict which were tendered as exhibits by the EFCC, be returned as restitution to the victim in the United States.
The convict was found guilty in one of the 2- count charge bordering on obtaining goods by false pretences preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Arije, alias Ola Rhodes was reported to the EFCC in 2007 by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI. FBI agent, Mr. Robert Fortner who served as prosecution witness during the trial complained that the convict fraudulently claimed to be an employee of WESCO Corporation, a US based company.
Adewale Arije ordered three cartons containing 49 packets of Kingston Technology Value RAM, with each packet containing 25 pieces and inkjet print cartridges valued at N16million from Communication Supply Corporation, Virginia, USA by credit application and billed WESCO for the merchandise ordered.
The agent who was in Nigeria to testify against the convict further alleged that Arije perfected the scam by shipping the goods through United Kingdom based Morcargo UK Ltd to Barsmak Services Nigeria Ltd and collected it as Ola Rhodes.
The company representative claimed that they have lost over USD 2 million to this kind of 419 heist.The convict was arrested in Lagos few days after the EFCC received the petition. He owned up to the crime and when his house was searched all the items he fraudulently shipped to the country were recovered.
EFCC Slams 56 Count Charge on Indian Businessman over Fraud
Friday, 07 November 2008
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, slammed a 56 countcharge on a Nigeria-based Indian businessman Patrick Fernandez over his involvement in a N32 billion money laundering scam.
EFCC counsel Rotimi Jacobs, leading two other lawyers, told Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Lagos that the offenses for which Fernandez was arraigned, were grave. Fernandez, however, pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges preferred against him.
Mr. Patrick Fernandez
Fernandez, working in concert with some un-named Nigerians and Nigerian- registered companies:
·Joseann Global Resources Limited
·Pet Prime Impex Limited
·Pet Ferns Nigeria Limited
Four major banks in the country, at various times laundered money suspected to be proceeds of criminality. He did this through “check kiting, suppression, swap and round tripping.”
The four banks involved are:
One of the charges against the accused persons reads:
“ That you Patrick S. Fernandez, Joseann Global Resources Limited, Pet Prime Impex Limited; Pet Ferns Nig. Ltd and Pramila Fernandez (now at Large)John Ogidi (now at large) between November 2007 and February 2008, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did conspire to commit an offense to wit: laundering of 32, 000,000, 000.00 (Thirty Two Billion Naira) through check kiting , suppression, swap or round tripping and you hereby committed an offense contrary to section 17 and punishable under section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004”
In a court session that was sparsely attended, Fernandez looked defiant and all his responses to the charge were quick, sharp and short. His counsel, Mr. Obinna Okoli made an oral application for his bail.
He hinged his application on the ground that Fernandez had many well-meaning Nigerians who would be ready to stand as his sureties and that “he has some medical issues”. Okoli did not specify the kind of medical issues his client had.
In response, Rotimi Jacobs pleaded with the judge to insist on a written application for bail owing to the seriousness of the charge being pressed against Fernandez, coupled with the fact that he is not a Nigerian as well as the proof of evidence against him.
The judge assented to Jacob’s plea and ruled that his application for bail should be in writing. He also ruled that the specific medical issues Fernandez had should be explained and with enough evidence.
Justice Mohammed adjourned sitting till November 14 and ordered that Fernandez be remanded in EFCC’s custody.
EFCC Warns Banks Against Aiding Money Laundering
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri has challenged Nigerian banks to live up to their responsibility by giving the anti-graft agency genuine information on money laundering activities going on in the sector.
She said it is in the interest of the banks to cooperate with the Commission in this regard, stressing that the EFCC is now poised to beam its searchlight on the banking sector to safeguard the nation’s economy.
Dr. Erastus Akingbola discussing with Mrs. Farida Waziri during the visit
The EFCC boss gave this charge Tuesday, October 28, 2008 when a high-powered delegation of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) led by its President, Dr. Erastus Akingbola paid her a courtesy visit in her office in Abuja.
Waziri while receiving the delegation noted that the visit was timely as the banking sector was crucial in the country’s economy and the realization of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda, as well as the vision 20- 2020.
She said that it was quite unfortunate that corruption especially money laundering was sometimes facilitated by the banks. “We should partner with you because each time there is an occurrence of money laundering there is always insider connection,” she said.
She said that though banks comply with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) directives to report all financial transactions, the reports in most cases are incomplete adding that “the banks give you what they want rather than what you want.”She urged the banks to put their houses in order and avoid being used as tools in the hands of those who are determined to ruin the country through money laundering.
Waziri congratulated Akingbola who is also the Group Chief Executive of Intercontinental Bank Plc over his recent election as the president of CIBN, and challenged him to bring to bear on the banking sector, his wealth of experience and integrity.
In his response, Akingbola promised to give all necessary assistance to the Commission in the fight against financial crimes. In his opinion, the banking institution can only get better if the war against money laundering and other financial crimes is going to be successful. “We are committed to enthroning good ethics in the banking sector and we are determined to get rid of bad eggs in our midst”, he assured.
The CIBN boss revealed that in line with their policy of zero tolerance for corruption, the institute has set up a disciplinary committee which is ready to help the commission in its quest to end financial crimes. He praised the effort of the commission so far in the fight against financial crimes and money laundering.
Akingbola was accompanied during the visit by Mr. Joseph Jaiyeola, the first Vice President, Mr. Olusegun Ajibola, National Secretary, Dr. Uju Ogbunka and H.R.H Prof. Green O. Nwankwo, past president of the Institute among others.
Operation Cyber Storm1
Monday, 27 October 2008
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recorded yet another breakthrough in its resolve to check the incidences of economic crimes in the country, with the arraignment of fifty-eight (58) persons in connection with advance fee fraud before the Federal High Court in Kaduna presided over by Justice Shuabu Mohammed.
The suspects who were all males, were arrested in an operation tagged “Operation Cyber Storm1” carried out in the nation’s three geo- political zones of South West, South East and South-South.
Some of the suspects at the Federal High Court, Kaduna
Theywere cumulatively slammed with more than eighty-five count charge all predicated on internet related fraud, offenses based on obtaining money under false pretenses between Wednesday and Friday last week.
Seven of the accused persons were arraigned on the ground of failure to obtain full particulars of customers, permission of their business premises for the commission of the offenses and non-registration of their cyber cafes with the EFCC.
A sample of one of the charges read:
“That you, Kalu Agwara, on or about 5th April 2008, at Preskal cyber café of No. 145 Azikiwe Road, Aba, Abia state, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, in a letter titled CONGRATULATIONS WE HAVE SECURED THE IMPORT LICENSE sent to one Mrs. Minakshi Puri as DOMINIC KINGSLEY attempted to obtain the sum of USD 2,162.50 and USD 3,092.00 under false pretense of expending the said sum in trying to secure a fictitious import license as well as bank charges incurred in trying to obtain the said license which you claimed was a government requirement to enable the said Mrs. Minakshi Puri ,send some goods that you falsely led her to believe you were going to import to Nigeria thereby committed an offense contrary to section 8(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act 2006 and punishable under 1(3) of the same Act.”
The prosecution counsel totaling twelve were led by Messrs. Johnson Ojogbane and Joshua Saidi. Reacting to the oral applications for bail by counsel to the accused persons some of who cited the fact that their clients voluntarily reported themselves as at when needed by the EFCC, the prosecution lead counsel, Joshua Saidi, noted that it was pertinent that a formal application be made to support the facts as being presented by the defense counsel.
He along with other prosecution counsel argued that while they concur that granting of bail was at the discretion of the court, it should be done in consideration of the nature of the charge, severity of punishment and evidence before the court. Only three of the defense counsel came up with written motion for bail.
Earlier in one of the cases, Francis Arinze Okeke vs Federal Republic of Nigeria, the defence counsel, Aniekwena Ben-churchill just like other defence counsel, orally applied for bail for his client citing the case of Abiola vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria as basis for his oral application. He based his application on section 118(2) of the criminal procedure Act which stipulates condition for bail of an accused and sections 35(5) and 36 of the 1999 constitution which state that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Ruling separately in all the cases; the presiding Judge, Justice Shaibu Mohammed Said; “Though an oral application for bail can be entertained in a Law Court, materials must be made available to help the court make a judicial and judicious use of its discretion. Discretion cannot be made in a vacuum. There are no materials”.
While refusing all the oral bail applications by the defense counsel, Justice Muhammed however, granted bail to only one of the accused persons, Nnachi Ephraim whose counsel Joe Umoelin the trial judge said was able to substantiate with proof his written application for bail.
The offense attracts a term of not more than 20 years and not less than 7 years without an option of a fine if an accused is found guilty.
All the cases have been adjourned to different dates from Friday 5th November to Tuesday 16th December, 2008 while the accused were ordered remanded in prison custody.
Western Union Employee Arrested
Friday, 24 October 2008
A banker who works in the Western Union desk of one of the new generation banks, Mr. Tobi Adebayo has been arrested by EFCC over his role in a marriage scam involving two undergraduates of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye and a Malaysian lady who was swindled of $21,600.The prime suspect, Mr. Oyewale Jide Akeem claimed that he met the victim, Ms Susan Choo on a dating site in the internet and they started chatting
Soon, the chatting blossomed into a love affair. The 18- year old undergraduate who had assumed the identity of a non-existent Mark Park Lofton, an American national resident in Nigeria, said the only condition that the lady gave for the consummation of their romance was that he must be a Christian which he readily met. And to convince his prey about his identity, he downloaded the picture of a tall American from the internet and sent it to the victim in Malaysia.
Choo who is a divorcee with two children was fascinated by the photograph of the white man she saw, and she started dreaming of an enduring relationship. Unknown to her that she was being conned; she stepped up her chatting with the fictitious man. The online romance was so hot to the extent that the victim contemplated coming to Nigeria so they could solemnize the relationship.
She was so carried away that she promised to take her ‘fiancé’ to Pastor Temitope Joshua of Synagogue Church of All Nations because, as she claimed, the pastor was known to her. The suspect also promised to take his fiancé to a fictitious Pastor Mathew Kalejaiye of non- existent Lifedon Christian Church Lagos.
Now conscious that he had the victim under his spell, Akeem began to release the tricks from his rich arsenal. He started by telling the woman that he would like to visit her in Malaysia before she arrives Nigeria for the marriage and that he would need money for ticket and other travel expenses. Choo swallowed the bait and agreed to send money through Western Union.
At this juncture the fraudster realized that he would need to recruit more people to perfect the scam. He got a ready accomplice in 18- year old Idowu Olukunle Joseph, his childhood friend who is also an undergraduate of OlabisiOnabanjoUniversity. Idowu’s duty was to present his identity card to collect the money being sent by the sucker and take it to Akeem for a commission.
When they realized that the ID card might give them away because of the frequency with which they visited the bank, they changed their strategy. The second suspect, Idowu stole his father’s driver’s license which they used to collect more money in the bank.
But despite the ingenuity of the duo, it wouldn’t have been so easy to defraud the 35 year old Malaysian but for the ignoble role played by the third suspect, Mr. Adebayo, who was in charge of the Western Union Money Transfer desk at the Egbeda branch of the bank. He threw banking ethics into dustbin and provided cover for the fraudsters for a fee and in the process, the trio successfully defrauded the victim of $21,600.
The cat was let out of the bag when the woman discovered that the photograph sent to her by the principal suspect was actually downloaded from the internet. Consequently, she petitioned EFCC and the operatives of the commission swung into action. In no time,the suspects were rounded up at Oshodi, a Lagos suburb. They have all made useful statements and would soon be arraigned in court.
Nigerians Arrested Over Big Banking Scam
October 23, 2008
South Korean police have arrested three Nigerians for allegedly obtaining millions of dollars from Citibank with a forged document purportedly from Ethiopia's central bank.
Police said the suspects were caught Monday in the Yongsan district of Seoul following a tip-off from a local bank employee as they tried to withdraw money from a bank account which had been frozen at Citibank's request.
In August, the trio allegedly sent a forged payment request from the Ethiopian central bank to Citibank in New York.
They asked for more than 30 million to be sent to bank accounts in several countries, including South Korea, China and Tanzania; "Citibank apparently transferred most of the money, including nine billion won ($A9.5 million) sent to four local banks in Seoul," Detective Jung Hyun-Soo at Yongsan police station told AFP.
It was unclear whether money was withdrawn from accounts in other countries, he said.
Of the nine billion won transferred to South Korea, police said the Nigerians had already withdrawn eight billion and were detained while trying to obtain the remaining one billion.
Han Jeong, a senior police officer at Yongsan, told Yonhap news agency the Nigerians had already handed over most of the eight billion won to unspecified Ethiopians.
"After belatedly discovering that the documents had been forged, Citibank notified the Korean banks," Han said.
Two of the suspects were in South Korea on business visas while a third was an illegal immigrant. Their names were withheld; "We're working closely with police in their investigation," a Citibank Korea spokeswoman said.
Police said Citibank officials told them that the forged document looked authentic and had the signatures of the central bank governor and directors.
419 scammers got their dues in January 2004, courtesy of the Dutch police. The fraudsters had sent out more than 100,000 emails targeting users in Japan and the US, according to Amsterdam police, promising the lucky recipients a share of $20m windfall.
The investigation into the 419ers ended in 52 arrests and the seizure of about €50,000 in cash, as well as hardware including PCs and mobiles, and fake documents. The 419 email scam has been responsible for defrauding thousands of people out of huge sums of cash for years.
The victims received little compassion from the Dutch police, who branded them "naïve" for handing over cash to the scammers. The scam, which often originates in Nigeria, has been a huge embarrassment to its political establishment and has prompted promises to crackdown on the fraudsters from the Nigerian authorities.
Just last week, the law that governs such offenses - the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 1995 - was scheduled to be amended by the Nigerian parliament to take a harder line on those assisting the 419 scammers' activities.
Any person found to be participating in 419ers' fraudulent transactions could be liable for five years in jail, and anyone found guilty of operating an illegal internet café or GSM network could net themselves a year in the clink and a fine of N100,000 (about £400).
The Nigerian police are also having some success in their pursuit of the 419 scammers. Two men were arrested earlier this month after trying to con a businessman out of thousands of naira by claiming that they were from the Bank of Ghana and had a transfer of funds for him.
While victims might be "naïve" to fall for the scam, there's evidently no shortage of people willing to hand over the cash. Nigeria's anticorruption commission has seized more than $200m from conmen in the space of eight months.
Nigerian Arrested for 419 Cheating in India
A Nigerian national Anthony Chisaokwe Iheme was arrested on Monday for allegedly trying to cheat the partner of a garment store in Abids. He was booked for cheating, criminal conspiracy and also under the Foreigners Act.
A police press note said that the accused bought a few pairs of trousers and shirts a few days back from Hemant, the partner of a garment store. Iheme told Hemant he was interested in making a bulk purchase amounting to $ 2.5 million from the latter to export to Nigeria, and that the clothes were samples of the purchases he wanted to make.
Iheme reportedly told Hemant that the money for the deal would be sent by his father from Nigeria to Mumbai in cash, the form of a consignment. However, to get the consignment released, he would require $4,000, Ikeme told Hemant.
The accused then asked the complainant to pay that amount to get the consignment released. In order to substantiate the deal, Iheme reportedly showed Hemant a letter his father Robert Iheme had sent via e-mail from Nigeria.
The police during the course of investigation found that Anthony struck a bogus deal and was liable to be prosecuted as he had indulged in criminal conspiracy with an intention to cheat the partner of the garment store.
However, police are yet to confirm the identity of the accused as he is in possession of a passport which does not belong to him. The passport he had is that of a friend from South Africa who has a multiple entry tourist visa of six months validity.
LAGOS, NIGERIA – In the heart of sub-Saharan Africa's most-crowded metropolis, in a dimly lit Internet café thumping with Nigerian music, clusters of two and three teenage boys hover around aging computer screens. They use their Nike T-shirts and baggy jeans to wipe sweat off their brows and palms as they intently craft deceptive e-mails and scour the Web for foreign e-mail addresses.
These are Nigeria's "yahoo-yahoo boys" - purveyors of their country's most infamous export: scam e-mails sent en masse daily to in-boxes around the world. They represent the lowest rung of powerful, politically connected gangs that aim to swindle gullible, greedy foreigners - especially Americans - out of millions of dollars.
Nigeria's government is now cracking down harder on e-mail fraud, in part to repair damage the scams have done to the country's global reputation. But the boys and their bosses may be difficult to stop. Many are motivated not just by greed, but a desire to leave their country - or retaliate against Westerners for perceived injustices.
"You have no idea where Nigeria even is - you're just greedy and want the money," says Sonny, a former yahoo-yahoo boy who became a middle manager in a scam ring, speaking of the foreigners he targeted.
He singles out Americans for special disdain. Canadians or Europeans tend to be cautious, but when Americans get e-mails promising millions, if only they'll pay a small up-front fee, "They just say, 'Send the money quickly,' " he says laughing.
Indeed, a strong undercurrent of sticking it to Westerners - particularly white Americans - pervades the yahoo-yahoo culture, also known as "419 fraud" after the section of Nigerian law it violates.
The scammers' anthem is a popular song called, "I Go Chop Your Dollar." A tongue-in-cheek comedian and singer named Osofia belts out, in local slang, a song that translates to, "419 is just a game. You are the loser, I am the winner. White people greedy.... I take your money and disappear.... You be the fool, I be the master."
It's payback, people here say, for everything from legions of West Africans once taken by Westerners as slaves, to millions of barrels of Nigerian oil now consumed yearly by rich nations.
It's channeled, Sonny and others explain, into the basic workings of the scam industry. Young yahoo-yahoo boys typically work on commission. They use programs like "Email Extractor 1.4" to create lists of recipients. They carefully craft letters, using shreds of truth to entice. One recent e-mail cites the real fact that Nigeria's First Lady, Stella Obasanjo, recently died after a botched tummy-tuck.
The missive is supposedly an aide who wants to move the boss's ill-gotten gains out of the country - and needs to borrow your bank account for a few days. Join in and you'll be richly rewarded.
The yahoo-yahoos send thousands of messages out - and only get a few replies, which are forwarded to experienced conmen in their organization, who subtly reel in the foreigners. Some organizations reportedly even have US-based partners to verify the setup - or add pressure if the victim gets cold feet.
"The first fees are not huge - maybe $1, 000," Sonny explains. "But then the stakes will be raised." Suddenly, the foreigner must wire money for "lawyers' fees" or bribes to get a government minister to approve a transaction.
There are few hard numbers about the industry. But the US Secret Service, which investigates and monitors these crimes, says they gross "hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate."
But not if Nigerian authorities have their way; a new Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is targeting "not just the scammer, but the ring around him," says Osita Nwajah, a spokesman. This includes banks, owners of cyber cafés, even café-building landlords. Eventually, "Everyone will become a sort of cyber-guard" to prevent e-mail crime, he says, perhaps optimistically.
The EFCC also prosecutes swindlers - and repays victims. It locked up crooks who swindled $242 million from a Brazilian bank - and have repaid the bank an initial $17 million. "We are getting them to vomit what they've swallowed," says Mr. Nwajah. The EFCC also recently repaid an elderly Hong Kong victim $4.4 million.
The efforts appear to be having some deterrent effect. "People are scared now," says Sonny, but the larger issue is societal: Why do so many bright young Nigerian men pour such creativity and initiative into this type of criminality?
In a country with high unemployment, few computer firms, and many technical schools that teach computer skills, there are few other options, explains Chris Ola, head of the national police fraud squad.
There's no social safety net and so much corruption that "You can't actualize" - become financially secure - "by working within the system," he explains. "Even straight people end up going wrong."
When yahoo-yahoos graduate from school, they can't get a real job - and dream of going to America for one. "They're smart, so they have to do something to survive," Mr. Ola says. That's why, "In any cyber café, you see people plotting their way out of Nigeria."