The Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun a clampdown on bankers and operators of Bureau De Change (BDC) outfits across Nigeria who are aiding cybercrimes.
The clampdown followed the indictment of 80 Nigerians in a massive cybercrime case, investigated by the United State’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
EFCC Ibadan Zonal Head, Ibadan, Mr Friday Ebelo, disclosed this during a press briefing held at the Commission’s zonal office at Iyaganku on Wednesday.
He said the EFCC is in constant collaboration with international organisations with similar mandates, especially the FBI, in an effort to curb internet crime and transfers of illicit funds, saying: “Our longstanding collaborative engagement with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies remains intact and is yielding mutual benefits.”
He stated that the Commission, which has begun background checks on the 80 indicted Nigerians, has also arrested a total of 263 cybercrime suspects in 2019, adding that 111 among them had been convicted by courts of competent jurisdiction and sentenced to various jail terms.
Ebelo commended EFCC Acting Chairman Mr Ibrahim Magu, citing his leadership as being responsible for the successes recorded so far by the Commission, stating that the Ibadan zone has recovered local and foreign currencies from cybercrime related offences. He listed the currency recoveries as amounting to N7,461,378; USD56,452; 2,400 Euros; and £65; CAD400.
He referred to the case of a banker in their custody, arrested on Tuesday, who had allegedly been clearing suspected cybercriminals, and also shortchanging them, saying: “Assuming the exchange rate is N360 to US$1, he can blackmail them by saying that the exchange rate is N200 to US$1.
“…He would threaten to report them to the EFCC. Those people (cybercriminals) would have to agree on a give-and-take in order to avoid problems. We have the banker in our custody and many more will come. Those that are aiding them – the bankers and BDC, we will get them out.”
Ebelo, who disclosed cartel involvement in cybercrime, mentioned that the cartels operate networks across various countries, further revealing that the cybercriminals use bankers and operators of Bureau De Change businesses to launder their illicit loot, away from the prying eyes of authorities.
He mentioned the case of one suspected internet fraud kingpin, Ajayi Gbenga Festus, “who was recently arrested during one of our operations in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. The suspect, according to our investigation, works with other cybercriminals abroad in a highly sophisticated web of conspiracy designed to illegally access accounts of individuals and organisations to defraud them of their money.
“We were able to establish a number of illicit transactions through his Nigerian bank account, amounting to over N223 million. Ajayi serves as conduit pipe through which proceeds of crime reach members of the syndicate. His cuts in the deals total over N75 million.
The suspect is still helping the Commission in its further investigations. He surely will have his day in court as soon as investigations are concluded and the matter is ripe for prosecution.”
The steps being taken by the EFCC, according to Ebelo, were calculated to constitutionally ensure that the “interests of hardworking and law-abiding Nigerians are adequately protected, and that they are not denied the fruit of their labour by the recalcitrant few.
We will also continue to work assiduously to ensure that those who engage in acts capable of tarnishing the good image of our dear country do not escape the cold hands of the law.”