The United States Department of Justice has announced the arrest of 74 people in the US and overseas, including 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland, for alleged financial fraud.
The arrests were as a result of a coordinated effort to disrupt business email compromise schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens, according to a statement on its website dated June 11, 2018.
It said Operation Wire Wire, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the US Department of Justice, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of the Treasury and the US Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over a six month period, culminating in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity.
“The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4m, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14m in fraudulent wire transfers,” the statement said.
BEC, also known as ‘cyber-enabled financial fraud,’ is a sophisticated scam often targeting employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.
According to the statement, the same criminal organisations that perpetrate BEC also exploit individual victims, often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others, by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.
It said, “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organisations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.
The FBI Director, Christopher Wray, said the operation demonstrated the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses.
“We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens,” he added.
The US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, expressed gratitude for the outstanding efforts of the participating countries, including law enforcement actions that were coordinated and executed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria to curb BEC schemes that defraud businesses and individuals.