Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has disclosed that the agency will extend its dragnet to medical doctors who issue fake medical reports to people facing prosecution on alleged economic crimes in the country.
Magu disclosed this while briefing journalists at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja yesterday, saying that fake medical reports issued by doctors were also responsible for the prolonging of cases in the courts.
He gave an example of a scenario, which was trending on social media recently where a defence counsel argued that his client, who was brought to the court on a stretcher, was going to die if he was not allowed to proceed to India the next day.
Magu said the unexpected however happened when the prosecution requested for two minutes from the judge, left the court room and returned with a live snake and before they knew what was happening, the man on the stretcher, fled ahead of every other person.
According to him, “And this is really the situation. I am telling you. This is exactly what is happening. Now, we will extend our investigation to doctors who connive with criminals and give them fake medical report. I think we have to go after them.
“There is a way they can even get false report from abroad, from the hospital. You know in the hospital, you can just contact them, they will send you whatever you want. So, I think we should also put them on the spot so that this practice of giving fake medical report, we must stop. Yes, it must stop.”
Magu also said the EFCC is conducting investigations on some non governmental organisations operating in the northeast as they were being used to move cash around by looters and people who are opposed to the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.
“We are worried also because of the activities of the NGOs in the northeast. We are conducting very serious investigations. Very soon, we will come out. In fact, we will blank some of them because some of them, their activities are very worrisome. There are a lot of cash movement. Sometimes, they bring in cash, they fly in the cash. So, we have not completed investigation, we are working on some few NGOs. There is no way some of these NGOs will continue to operate in this country because we are facing a lot of insurgency, illegal mining and banditry. They are all funded by looters and by people who are opposed to the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians,” Magu also said.
He further said the EFCC will soon raid all the banks that are particularly involved in Western Union money transfer, alleging that they were cheating people. Magu disclosed that when money is sent from abroad, the owner keeps going to the bank and sometimes, ends up not receiving the exact amount.
He also opened up on ongoing arrests of internet fraudsters, saying that the EFCC does not witch haunt people, but effects arrest after painstaking investigation. He recalled that the EFCC was established as a result of the negative effect of the activities of fraudsters, especially advance fee fraudsters on the economy and image of the country.
Magu said while the Commission was successful in tackling advance fee fraud, other forms of fraudulent activities have emerged, promoted by advances in telecommunications, with even greater impact on the economy and image of Nigeria.
“Many youths are involved in Internet fraud of different types, most often targeting foreigners, especially women, whom they defraud of large sums of money. The EFCC has been unrelenting in its efforts to check the activities of these fraudsters, who, I must say, represent a tiny fraction of the population of our country.
“Following the complaints from some foreign countries, the Commission has had to undertake special collaboration with other law enforcement organizations, to check these crimes. Recently, the Commission and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), concluded a joint operations code named ‘Operation Rewired.’
“The exercise was meant to dismantle the network of organised criminal gangs that specialize in Business Email Compromise schemes, designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals,” Magu stated. He also said the operation resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
“Also worthy of mention is the Operation Triangle, which saw Italian police and EFCC working closely to dismantle a trans-national criminal group operating in all the five continents. EFCC, in close cooperation with the Italian National Police, as well as Spanish, Polish, English, Belgian, Georgian, Turkish and Cameroonian police, with the support of Europol and Interpol, and the coordination of Eurojust, carried out extensive investigations which resulted in the arrest of 62 individuals, seizure of 40,000 Euros, 30 smart phones, 10 tablets and 15 personal computers.
“Some of the Nigerians mentioned in the infamous FBI list of cyber fraudsters have been tracked, arrested and are being prosecuted in courts across the country by the Commission. But more fundamental than these international collaborations is the sustained effort of the Commission to comprehensively tackle the menace of internet related frauds in Nigeria. I am happy to report that we are recording series of breakthroughs with almost daily arrests of suspected fraudsters across the country.”
Magu also said in October alone, the Commission recorded over 200 arrests of suspected internet fraud suspects in carefully coordinated operations across its offices, adding that the major talking point was the recent arrest of celebrated social media personality and alleged internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, also known as Mompha and his Lebanese accomplice, Hamza Koudeih.
“They were picked up in Abuja and Lagos respectively, through credible intelligence which flagged the suspects as kingpins of Organized Cyber Syndicate Network (OCSN).
“Five wristwatches valued at over N60million were recovered from Mompha, at the point of arrest. Investigation has also revealed that he operates 51 bank accounts in Nigeria with which he acquired properties in Dubai and had laundered about N14billion through Ismalob Global Investments Limited. His accomplice, Koudeih, also has two firms namely: THK Services Limited and CHK properties Limited with which he has allegedly laundered about N19billion. Koudeih lives in a $5million per annum suite at the Eko Atlantic Pearl Tower, Victoria Island Lagos.