Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
There seems to be no hiding place for Nigerians indicted by the FBI in its recent crackdown on fraud.
Following the indictment of 77 Nigerians by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has placed all its offices in the country on red alert in a bid to track down collaborators of the Internet scam in Nigeria.
The anti-graft agency had said weekend that it had commenced investigations into the matter and would storm hideouts of cyber criminals in the country.
THISDAY checks showed that the EFCC had spread out its dragnet across the country with a view to tracking down the collaborators of the Internet scammers indicted in the United States.
US authorities while filling court papers on the matter, announced an indictment charging 80 people, mostly Nigerians, with stealing at least $46 million through various schemes that targeted businesses, the elderly and anyone susceptible to a romance scam.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history.
“We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks,” US Attorney, Nick Hanna, had told a news conference.
A source close to the EFCC investigation told THISDAY that all EFCC offices nationwide were placed on red alert in a renewed bid to track down collaborators of the Internet fraud resident in Nigeria.
“All the offices in Nigeria have been placed on red alert to track them”, the source said, while noting that some of the collaborators were already on the radar of the commission.
The Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had stated weekend that the agency collaborated with the FBI on two operations, notably “operation wire-wire” in 2018 and “operation rewire” which is ongoing and aimed at containing cybercrime in Nigeria and other countries, notably Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada and the US.
“We walked with FBI in Lagos. We carried out operation wire wire and the FBI mentioned in their press statement that we are one of the agencies working with them and it was successful”, he said.
He had said the agency would soon storm the hideouts of the Internet fraudsters in Nigeria and engage neighbouring countries, especially Ghana in tackling the menace. He said most of the fraudsters, popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo boys, had moved to Ghana when the commission put the heat on them.
“It is not as if we are not doing anything, we are re-energising; we are working. We will go out and storm all their hideouts.
“We will also cooperate with our partners. Last time we were in Ghana we realised that at a point they were so many there. They have all gone to Ghana. Most of them are in Ghana so we will cooperate with our neighbours to check the menace of Yahoo Yahoo boys and cybercrime since it is a borderless crime,” he said.
Also speaking during a visit to the EFCC, Chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had said the arrested Nigerians remained innocent until proven guilty.
“We stressed that these Nigerians are not guilty. They are innocent until proven guilty. It is a court indictment and they will go on trial. We are providing consular services for them and then we really need to affirm that they are all Nigerians.
“It is a very embarrassing situation to have 80 people and 77 are allegedly Nigerians. When things like this happen, they dent the image of the country.
“However, that is not who we are as a people. A few people who committed a crime should not tarnish the image of a country of 200 million people we keep emphasising that we are not going to accept the stereotype but we need to see that we are doing something about cybercrime.
“We are here with the EFCC to say Nigerians in the diaspora count on you to tackle cybercrime as effectively as you are tackling corruption so that those who perpetrate these crimes are brought to book.
“They have a leg here and there and to ensure that those in Nigeria will not be supported. We want you to reassure the world that we are not a nation of 419ners and fraudsters,” she said.
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