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2 Caught In $10 Million Cyber Fraud

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Two persons, Maxwell Peter and Babatunde Martins, have appeared before an Accra District Court for allegedly defrauding a real estate company in the United States of America an amount of $10 million.

The two reportedly obtained the amount from the victims under the hoax of supplying them gold bars.

According to the prosecution, the duo and nine others some of whom are at large between 2007 and 2016 in Accra falsely got the amount.

In the case of the prosecutor that Maxwell and Babatunde both within the same period defrauded the victims the sum of $500,000 each and paid same into their various bank accounts under the pretext of supplying the victims with gold when they knew the presentation was false.

The accused persons are facing additional charges of conspiracy to have unauthorized access or interception, conspiracy to have access to computer or electronic record and conspiracy to have unauthorized interference with electronic records.

The other charges are conspiracy to have access to protected computer, conspiracy to have unauthorized modification of computer programme.

Appearing in a court presided over by  Dora Eshum, the accused persons who were in court with their lawyers denied the charges.

Alidu Mohammed, lawyer for Maxwell urged the court to grant his client bail because the offense preferred against his client is bailable.

He among others argued that the facts of the prosecution do not support charges against his client.

Charles Bentum, representing Babatunde challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.

He said the same case was before an Accra High Court and that the court was in a conflict position.

But the prosecution argued that the issue of jurisdiction should not arise because the case before the High Court has nothing to do with money laundering which could not be prosecuted by the District Court.

With regards to a pending case at the High Court, the prosecution said Babatunde has been discharged by the court therefore there is no conflict with regards to the decision of the District Court.

The trial magistrate has however set December 19, 2017 to deliver a ruling on the bail application.

Two paddies have been remanded.

The facts of the case are that the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) received intelligence from USA that a group of individuals were involved in a network of cybercrime, financial crime and money laundering where a company headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee was hacked into and defrauded.

The accused persons, acting together with a common purpose hacked into the email servers of the said company, used their email addresses and bank accounts to misdirect funds intended by the company by way of computer intrusion known as “Business Email Compromise” (BEC) and spoofed the email accounts of the company and fraudulently misdirected the funds for real estate transaction.

Based on mutual legal assistance cooperation, a joint investigation team was constituted between officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Ghana Police, NACOB and EOCO.

Investigations revealed that during the said period the accused persons created a fake email usually containing either a link or an attachment to a malicious website which was linked to the company and infected the company’s email accounts.

This spread to the company’s entire computer network and harvested information including company files, credentials and gave the accused persons access to sensitive information of the company.

The accused persons monitored email correspondences from customers of the company to determine when a large financial transaction is going to take place.

After the initial transfer or wiring instructions are conveyed between legitimate customers of the company, the accused persons will send a follow up email that appears to be coming from the company to misdirect the funds into their accounts.

The accused persons were subsequently arrested on November 28 and 30 respectively.

Investigations further revealed that the accused persons received the said amount as proceeds from the unlawful activities.

The bank statements of Babatunde shows that he received over $2 million in his accounts at Guaranty Trust Bank, Ecobank Ghana Limited and other banks under the guise of engaging in legitimate trade with AFRIOCEAN LIMITED.

A search conducted in the extravagant house of Maxwell revealed many information on his laptop and phone that links Babatunde and the other accused persons to the crime.

By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson/ thePublisher

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