The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said it is prepared to rehabilitate repentant Internet fraudsters.
Acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, disclosed this on Friday at a meeting with stakeholders as his commission revved up the battle against internet fraudsters and money launderers.
He said: “For those who are remorseful, and prepared to turn a new leaf, the Commission is fully disposed to help in channelling their energies and cyber skills to positive venture.
We are considering a policy that will help in the rehabilitation of convicted but repentant Internet fraudsters, to ensure that their skills are positively applied, in helping to build a better Nigerian society.
“The youth must learn the virtues of integrity and hard work as the path to sustainable wealth. They must realize that crime does not pay. Rather it will destroy their prospects and ruin their chances of decent living.”
Magu also disclosed that the Commission has been able to track down most of the cyber-criminals declared wanted by the FBI in August and that in October alone the Commission recorded over 200 arrests of suspected Internet fraud suspects in carefully coordinated operations across our offices.
His full speech read:
“1t is my pleasure to welcome you all to this special briefing which is intended to update you on the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission especially as it relates to the fight against cyber crime, particularly Internet fraud.
“As many of you will recall, the EFCC was created due largely to the negative effect of the activities of fraudsters, especially advance fee fraudsters, on the economy and image of our country. While the Commission was successful in tackling advance fee fraud, other forms of fraudulent activities have emerged, promoted by advances in telecommunications, with even greater impact on the economy and image of Nigeria.
“Many youths are involved in Internet fraud of different types, most often targeting foreigners, especially women, whom they defraud of large sums of money.
“The EFCC has been unrelenting in its effort to check the activities of these fraudsters, who, I must say, represent a tiny fraction of the population of our country.
“Following the complaints from some foreign countries, the Commission has had to undertake special collaboration with other law enforcement organizations, to check these crimes. Recently, the Commission and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI concluded a joint operations code named, Operation Rewired.
“The exercise was meant to dismantle the network of organised criminal gang that specialize in Business Email Compromise 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.
“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 5 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 Thousand Euros, 30 smart phones, 10 tablets and 15 personal computers.
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“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.
“But more fundamental than these international collaborations is the sustained effort of the Commission to comprehensively tackle the menace of Internet related frauds in Nigeria. I am happy to report that we are recording series of breakthroughs with almost daily arrests of suspected fraudsters across the country .
“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 Organized Cyber Syndicate Network, OCSN.
“Five wristwatches valued at over N60million 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 N14billion through Ismalob Global Investments Limited. His accomplice, Koudeih, also has two firms namely: THK Services Limited and CHK properties Limited with which he has allegedly laundered about N19billion.Koudeih lives in a $5million per annum suite at the Eko Atlantic Pearl Tower, Victoria Island Lagos.
“These arrests have further confirmed our commitment to the fight against corruption and economic crime and send a clear message to high end fraudsters that they can only run but cannot hide. Sooner than later, we will get them.
“The effort to flush out all fraudsters continues. At the same time, we will sustain the tempo of vigorous prosecution of fraud cases in court. Indeed, fraudsters account for a huge percent of the 890 convictions that has been recorded by the Commission, this year. A number of assets have been seized while victims have also enjoyed restitution by order of court.
“But the battle is far from being won. The Commission requires the support of all stakeholders, especially the media, to help in sensitizing the youth who are the ones mostly involved in cyber crime, about the evil of Internet frauds on our economy and collective national image.
“The youth must learn the virtues of integrity and hard work as the path to sustainable wealth. They must realize that crime does not pay. Rather it will destroy their prospects and ruin their chances of decent living.
“For those who are remorseful, and prepared to turn a new leaf, the Commission is fully disposed to help in channelling their energies and cyber skills to positive venture. We are considering a policy that will help in the rehabilitation of convicted but repentant Internet fraudsters, to ensure that their skills are positively applied, in helping to build a better Nigerian society.
“I urge you all to join us in fighting cyber crime and other forms of corruption. We need to change the negative narratives about Nigeria being a haven of fraudsters.
“Once again, I thank you for your presence and support.”