‘There must be more rigorous enforcement of rules promoting transparency in the international banking and financial systems, especially more stringent KYC rules on customer identity, source of wealth, and even country of origin.’
Following these words of Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, has ordered the temporary forfeiture of N280,555,010.65, “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, alleged to have been owned by one Obinwanne Okeke, “a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.”
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus, is currently standing trial in the United States of America over an alleged $11mpllion cyber fraud.
The 31-year-old Nigerian, who was in 2016 celebrated by Forbes, as one of Africa’s most outstanding 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30, and described by the magazine as “proof that there is hope for Africa,” was arrested in August this year by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate, which had defrauded a number of American citizens to the tune of $11million, “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme.”
The order of the court was as a result of an application filed and argued before the court by the EFCC Legal officer, Barrister Rotimi Oyedepo.
The presiding Judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, made an order for the temporary forfeiture of the sums of N240,250,904.46 and N40,304,106.19, which the anti-graft agency said it found warehoused in First City Monument Bank, FCMB, Plc accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, respectively.
Barrister Oyedepo told the court that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of cybercrime and urged the judge to order their forfeiture to the Federal Government, to prevent Okeke from dissipating same. In an affidavit filed in support of the application, EFCC investigator, Ariyo Muritala, said the commission assigned him and others to investigate a request for information on Okeke and three others, by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Legal Attache, US Consulate General, and submitted thus: I know as a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following far-reaching and mind-boggling findings.
(a) That Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.
(b) That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims.
(c) That the said Obiwanne George Okeke has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America for cybercrime-related offences.
(d) That if these funds are not forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Obiwanne George Okeke and his cronies will dissipate same,” Muritala averred in the said sworn affidavit.
Oyedepo then argued that Justice Aikawa had the power to make the interim forfeiture order by virtue of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Fraud Offence Act No. 14, 2006. The judge acceded to the request and ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds.