EFCC, Europol, Interpol Smash Transnational Criminal Gangs

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• 62 Nigerians arrested   

• Says Mompha operated 61 bank accounts, laundered N33bn

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said it collaborated with the police of six European countries (Europol) and the International Police (INTERPOL) to smash a criminal gang operating in five continents.

This is coming as the anti-graft agency said it recovered $16 million in “operation rewire” conducted with the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The commission said it arrested 200 cybercrime suspects in the “operation rewire” , including a social media celebrity and alleged internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, also known as Mompha and his Lebanese accomplice, Hamza Koudeih who operated 61 bank accounts and laundered N14 billion.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting at the headquarters of the commission in Abuja, EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, said the commission, in “operation triangle”, smashed the criminal gang operating in five continents.

“Also worthy of mention is the Operation Triangle, which saw Italian police and EFCC working closely to dismantle a trans-national criminal group operating in all the five continents.

“EFCC in close cooperation with the Italian National Police, as well as Spanish, Polish, English, Belgian, Georgian, Turkish and Cameroonian police, with the support of Europol and Interpol, and the coordination of Eurojust, carried out extensive investigations which resulted in the arrest of 62 individuals, seizure of 40,000  Euros, 30 smart phones, 10 tablets and 15 personal computers,” he said.

On the “operation rewire”, Magu said the commission and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, concluded the joint operation recently.

“The exercise was meant to dismantle the network of organised criminal gang that specialise in Business Email Compromise (BCE) schemes, designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals.

“The operation resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers,” he said.

He said some of the Nigerians mentioned in the infamous FBI list of cyber fraudsters have been tracked, arrested and are being prosecuted in courts across the country by the commission.

“In October alone, the commission recorded over 200 arrests of suspected Internet fraud suspects in carefully coordinated operations across our offices.

“However, the major talking point for us was the recent arrest of celebrated social media personality and alleged internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, also known as Mompha and his Lebanese accomplice, Hamza Koudeih.

“They were picked up in Abuja and Lagos respectively, through credible intelligence which flagged the suspects as kingpins of Organised Cyber Syndicate Network, OCSN,” he said.

The EFCC Chairman said, “Five wristwatches, valued at over N60 million were recovered from Mompha, at the point of arrest.

“Investigation has also revealed that he operates 51 bank accounts in Nigeria with which he acquired properties in Dubai and had laundered about N14 billion through Ismalob Global Investments Limited.”

According to Magu, “His accomplice, Koudeih, also has two firms namely: THK Services Limited and CHK Properties Limited with which he has allegedly laundered about N19 billion.

Magu said the effort to flush out fraudsters would be sustained, adding that fraudsters accounted for a huge percentage of the 890 convictions recorded by the commission this year.