SWITZERLAND, JUNE 27 – The FBI’s public announcement declaring six Nigerians wanted in the United States for electronic fraud may have become a case of witch-hunting after discovery that 73 men from other countries are also on FBI’s Cyber most wanted list, but their citizenship has not been publicly paraded.
On Friday, US law enforcement agency, FBI announced that it is looking for information on six Nigerian citizens wanted for their involvement in Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes resulting in over $6 million in losses.
Earlier, the FBI had released a report detailing the offences of the six Nigerians, and two other countrymen who have already been apprehended.
According to the FBI, one of them, Adewale Aniyeloye was sentenced in the District of Nebraska to 96 months’ imprisonment for wire fraud. The second, Onome Ijomone received a 60-month sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the same court.
But the six others are at large. They are Richard Uzuh; Micheal Olorunyomi; Alex Ogunshakin; Felix Okpoh; Abiola Kayode and Nnamdi Benson.
The indictments covering them were unsealed Tuesday by Attorney Joe Kelly and Kristi K. Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the Omaha field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The indictments charge them with involvement in Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes. The schemes included individual victims and victim businesses both in Nebraska and other states.
However, on taking a look at the FBI’s Cyber most wanted list, Today’s Echo’s correspondent discovered that the list also contains 16 Russians, 20 Chinese, and 37 men of Arabic origin. This has led to questions concerning how only six Nigerians would be singled out of a list containing 79 people.
Nigerians believe they are now being targeted for witch-hunting due to the worsening image of the country as the origin of massive electronic frauds across the world. But what if people from other countries are as guilty as Nigerians in perpetrating these crimes but have not come under as much scrutiny?
When asked if he thought the singling out of the six Nigerians was witch-hunting, a Nigerian told Today’s Echo, “Certainly! Why choose to use Nigerians as the poster boys when there are individuals of other nationalities in the list? It appears that they are deliberately pushing the narrative of Nigerians being fraudsters.”
A Twitter user with the handle, Tosin Olugbenga, calls it ‘Racism at its peak.”
“This list has 39 men of Arab origin, 16 Russians, 20 Chinese/Southeast Asian guys, and 6 Nigerians. But racist FBI has chosen the only 6 Nigerians as the poster boys for this crime. Criminals are in every nation of the world but the moment you are black….”
The recent strings of high-profile electronic fraud cases involving Nigerian citizens has led to a significant dent in the image of Nigeria and its citizens and may have prompted the profiling of Nigerians in connection to those crimes.
One of the biggest international electronic fraud syndicate bursts was reported when Dubai police, at the behest of the FBI and INTERPOL, arrested Nigerian socialite, Hushpuppi and members of his crew two weeks ago. Dubai police Force said that the gang had stolen up to 1.6 billion Dirham (N168 billion), through various kinds of electronic fraud.
No fewer than 1,926,400 people from different parts of the world were also said to have fallen victims to the suspects. Also, 13 luxury cars, estimated at 35 million Dirham (N3.7 billion) were recovered from the house where they were arrested.
In August 2019, the FBI arrested a Nigerian business tycoon, Obinwanne Okeke over an alleged conspiracy to commit fraud running into the sum of 12 million dollars. Okeke, known as Invictus Obi is a prominent young business tycoon that has once been listed by Forbes as one of Africa’s 100 most influential youths.
Following Invictus Obi’s arrest, the FBI unveiled a list of 80 Nigerians indicted in a massive fraud, targeted at American individuals and companies. According to the FBI, the defendants allegedly laundered the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network. Some of the names on the list were found out to be people with links to influential people, including politicians in Nigeria.
Ismaila Mustapha, also known as Mompha, a Bureau de Change operator with a flamboyant lifestyle that appeals to young Nigerians, was intercepted by law enforcement officials in November 2019 while on a trip to Abuja, Nigeria. A 14-count charge of laundering N33 billion was immediately slammed on him. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC alleged that Mompha laundered the funds through a firm, Ismalob Global Investment Ltd, between 2015 and 2018. Mompha was eventually released.
While electronic fraud continues to be popular in Nigeria with many suspected fraudsters living flamboyant lifestyles and celebrated on the streets, it is instructive to note that the menace is causing enormous damage to Nigeria’s social psyche and destroying opportunities for its citizens.