A 40-year-old Nigerian national, identified as Mike has been arrested in a joint operation by INTERPOL and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mike is believed to be the ringleader of a global network behind thousands of online scams.
The network, made up of at least 40 individuals across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa, compromised email accounts of small and medium businesses around the world. Their victims are mainly other companies/individuals dealing with these compromised accounts. They have defrauded companies in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the US.
The network is believed to be behind scams totalling more than $60 million involving hundreds of victims worldwide. In one case a target was conned into paying out $15.4 million.
Mike also had money laundering contacts in China, Europe and the US that provided bank account details for the illicit cash flow.
He was arrested in Port Harcourt, and a forensic examination of devices seized by the EFCC showed he had been involved in a range of criminal activities including Business Email Compromise (BEC) and romance scams.
The two main ways Mike and his team scammed businesses were “Payment Diversion Fraud” and “CEO Fraud”. In diversion fraud, they will compromise a supplier’s email and send fake messages to a buyer with instructions for payment to a bank account under the criminal’s control.
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.
Mike first came into the law enforcement 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 Defense Institute based at the IGCI, and the EFCC to locate the suspect in Nigeria, resulting in his arrest in June.
Mike, along with a 38-year-old also arrested by the EFCC, is facing charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences. Both are currently on administrative bail as the investigation continues.