Global information exchange helps Nigeria nab online scammer

17 October 2019
INTERPOL coordinated cases looking into business email compromise fraud

LYON, France – INTERPOL’s global network has played a key role in the arrest of a Nigerian national suspected of defrauding hundreds of companies in Europe through business email compromise scams.

The 35-year-old was arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He currently faces 45 charges related to cybercrime, fraud and money laundering.

The Nigerian authorities seized property connected to the BEC fraud suspect.
The Nigerian authorities seized property connected to the BEC fraud suspect.

INTERPOL’s operational case management activity, referred to as ‘Operation Raven’, began in 2018 after a company in Norway fell victim to a scam and lost more than EUR 110,000. Links were established between this case and several others across Europe, allowing investigators to identify that the perpetrator was located in Nigeria.

Through the investigations led by Norway, it was discovered that the perpetrator was very active in conducting business email compromise, or BEC, scams primarily targeting companies in Europe. Investigators reportedly found the details of more than 10,000 CEOs and financial accountants of companies in Europe and South America on the suspect’s systems.

BEC fraud is a type of social engineering scam where criminals deceive company employees into transferring money to them. They might gain access to the victim’s devices or systems through malware or other security vulnerabilities, and learn enough about the company’s inner working to convincingly impersonate either a high-ranking employee like the CEO or a supplier.

Bringing together the affected countries, INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes unit organized a case coordination meeting in October 2018 attended by investigators and prosecutors from seven countries and Europol, which played a key analysis role. In addition, INTERPOL’s Cybercrime unit provided analysis of the data collected by investigators and generated Cyber Activity Reports to assist the investigations.

Based on the intelligence exchanged, the Nigerian EFCC launched an investigation to locate the suspect, who was arrested in March. Authorities believe the suspect and his accomplices had access to multiple bank accounts to receive and launder the proceeds of the BEC fraud, with up to USD 3 million suspected of passing through the hands of the criminals.

Although investigations are ongoing, hundreds of BEC cases have been linked to the criminal group so far.

While many of these were unsuccessful attempts in which no money was lost, a number of attempts – including the Norwegian case which launched the global inquiry – did result in substantial losses.

INTERPOL held a second case management meeting in October 2019 to further support the ongoing investigations.

Countries involved