Ibrahim Magu, the chairman of Nigeria’s anti-graft EFCC, claimed on Thursday that N33 billion in laundered funds had been linked to two suspected fraudsters.
Mr. Magu said Ismaila Mustapha, a self-acclaimed bureau de change operator, and his alleged Lebanese associate, Hamza Koudeih, laundered N14 billion and N19 billion between them, respectfully, in suspected loot from their victims on the Internet.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Mustapha, widely known as Mompha, had “51 bank accounts in Nigeria” and used them to buy “properties in Dubai and had laundered about N14 billion through a firm known as Ismalob Global Investments Limited,” Mr. Magu said. “His accomplice, Koudeih, also has two firms namely: THK Services Limited and CHK properties Limited with which he has allegedly laundered about N19 billion.”
Mr. Mustapha was arrested in Lagos on October 18 as he was about to board a flight to Dubai. Mr. Koudeih was arrested last week on Thursday in a raid of his apartment by anti-graft detectives. The Nation was the first to report the raid and also cited anti-corruption sources as linking both suspects to N33 billion graft.
Mr Magu gave updates about the arrests at the Lagos field office of the EFCC on Thursday afternoon.
Mr Mustapha had been a longtime Instagram celebrity, where he frequently displayed opulence within his young family. He had claimed ownership of upscale acquisitions, including posh houses and vehicles.
Mr Magu hinted at the expensive lifestyle of the suspects on Thursday, saying Mr Koudeih was living in “a $5 million per annum suite at the Eko Atlantic Pearl Tower,” which overlooks the Nigerian Atlantic coast in Lagos.
Mr Magu said operatives recovered electronic devices, documents and “strange” items when they raided Mr Koudeih’s apartment.
The operation that led anti-graft detectives to Messrs Mustapha and Koudeih was part of the ongoing collaboration between the EFCC and foreign law enforcement institutions, including the United States F.B.I., Mr. Magu said.
The partnership had targeted high-valued syndicates victimizing Internet users and targeting companies across the world. The business e-mail compromise aspect of the fraud alone had seen companies lose billions to the online crooks, whose trade usually seems genuine on the surface.
Since August, hundreds of Nigerians have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown on suspected Internet fraudsters and money laundering gangs in the U.S. and Nigeria. Some of those arrested during that time have been convicted and sentenced to prison by Nigerian courts.
“For us, there will be no hiding place for fraudsters as the commission will hunt and bring any errant and criminally-minded persons to justice,” Mr Magu said.