The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has disclosed that the collaborative operations between the Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), tagged “Operation Rewired” have led to the recovery of the sums of $169,850 as well as the sum of N92m from suspected perpetrators of computer-related frauds.
Magu said the operations had resulted in the arrest of 167 Nigerians for alleged computer-related frauds and recovery of four exotic cars, plots of land in choice areas in Lagos and a property in Abuja.
Speaking at a joint FBI/EFCC media briefing in Lagos on Tuesday, Magu, who spoke through Mohammed Umar Abba, Director of Operations, EFCC, said: “Being an international model operation targeted at the varied forms of computer-related frauds, the EFCC/FBI collaborative operations spanning three weeks was designed to intercept and interrupt the global network of the internet fraudsters.
“However, before now, as you are all aware, we had relentlessly launched intensive investigative actions against the infamous Yahoo yahoo boys culminating into various strategic raids, onslaught on criminals’ hideouts, prosecutions and convictions.
“I am happy to inform you that our efforts in coordinating the EFCC/FBI joint operations in Nigeria recorded tremendous successes leading to a number of arrests, seizures and recoveries. The suspected fraudsters arrested in the course of this operation will be persecuted accordingly.
“It is instructive to note that, from August 12, 2019 to date, the Operation Rewired coordinated by the EFCC in Nigeria as an impetus to our sustained operations on perpetrators of various computer-related frauds have resulted in the arrest 167 Nigerians for alleged computer-related frauds.”
The EFCC Chairman further called on the media to continue to lend its voice to the fight against corruption and economic and financial crimes, adding that “the EFCC will continue to partner with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies, especially in the area of exchange of information and actionable intelligence towards bringing to the barest minimum the menace of cybercrimes and other computer-based frauds in the country.”
Also speaking , Uche Ahamdi, Legal Attache, FBI office in Nigeria, said the Agency received 20,373 Business Email Compromise and Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC) complaints with losses of more than $1.2 billion.
According to him, “In a coordinated effort to dismantle international fraudulent BEC transactions and pursue bad actors and organized criminal enterprises, including money mules, that engage in BEC and fraud schemes that target and harm American businesses, the FBI and law enforcement partners in the U.S. and abroad implemented a strategy to target and disrupt these scammers and illicit actors.”
He further stated that money mules were usually employed by fraudsters to launder their ill-gotten gains by draining the funds into other accounts that were difficult to trace.
“The sweep ran from May to September 2019, with an uptake of focused law enforcement activity during a four week period, primarily in the U.S., Nigeria, Ghana, Turkey, France, Italy, UK, Japan, Kenya and Malaysia.
“The FBI-led operation involved multiple U.S. law enforcement partners, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“The operation benefited greatly from the work of our law enforcement partners around the world,”he said.
He also disclosed that “More than 37 FBI field offices and U.S. Attorney’s Offices participated in law enforcement activity, including executing arrests, search warrants, interviews, and serving money mule warning letters.
“The goal of this operation is to send a message to all who participate in the BEC scheme that they will be caught and prosecuted, regardless of where they are located.”
Ahamdi further stated that the collaborative operation leveraged resources from across the FBI, which enabled the agencies to bring the sum total of the FBI’s cyber, organized crime, and money laundering expertise to bear on computer-based frauds.
He, therefore, urged national and international law enforcement partners to develop a strategy that “focuses on dismantling the most significant cyber-criminal enterprises.”