South African and US Officers Swoop on Fraud Gang

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South African and US investigators have teamed up to arrest several members of a suspected fraud gang linked to an infamous Nigerian business email compromise (BEC) syndicate.

Officers from the Hawks Serious Commercial Crimes Unit and US Secret Service agents swooped on the Johannesburg homes of four men and three women aged between 25 and 42, according to Interpol.

They’re said to have been responsible for at least one possible BEC scam that conned a US-based company out of €455,000 ($496,000) and romance fraud.

Local reports detailing the raids said luxury vehicles likely bought with the proceeds of these crimes were also recovered, with the group comprising three South Africans and four Nigerians.

The gang has been linked to the infamous Nigerian syndicate Black Axe, thought to be responsible for tens of millions of dollars in BEC and other cybercrime losses.

Eight suspected Black Axe leaders were arrested in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2021, which Interpol claimed led to a major drop in the group’s activities. They now face extradition to the US, where they’re charged with stealing more than €6m ($6.5m) in romance scams.

Last week’s Johannesburg arrests were part of a global initiative led by Interpol’s Global Financial Crime Task Force (IGFCTF), which comprises 14 countries working closely together to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime.

Several IGFCTF operations are currently running, intending to target West African fraud syndicates, Interpol claimed.

“Taking advantage of globalization and digitization processes, criminals are able to commit financial crimes with increasing efficiency and sophistication,” said Rory Corcoran, acting director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC).

“The Johannesburg arrests highlight the importance of international cooperation between Interpol and its global law enforcement partners to target and disrupt the criminal syndicates involved in all forms of financial crimes and corruption.”

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