UK court finds 6 Nigerians guilty of £10m internet fraud

The criminal gang of 10 committed a total of 228 separate frauds in four years.

The gang was arrested in 2018 by the Falcon Fraud Squad of the Metropolitan Police [Verisure]

The gang was arrested in 2018 by the Falcon Fraud Squad of the Metropolitan Police [Verisure]

Six Nigerians were part of a 10-member gang of fraudsters found guilty of fraud offences by a United Kingdom court where they were tried for the theft of millions of pounds from businesses and individuals in the UK and abroad.

According to a publication by the Metropolitan Police, the gang members were convicted between March 26 and 28, 2019 for their roles in a large-scale ‘diversion fraud’ scam using hacking software following a six-month trial, and sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on Thursday, May 2.

The gang was reported to have been headed by Bonaventure Chukwuka, a UK-based 41-year-old Nigerian who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property (money laundering).

Other Nigerian members of the gang are Emmanuel ChukwukaChristian ChukwukaAndrew ChukwuQueen Chukwuka, and Grace Chukwu.

Ionut Relu MuresanMohammed RahmanMansoor Zaman, andNadeem Abbas are the other members of the gang who were equally sentenced last week.

Bonaventure, who was also found guilty of possession of a prohibited item (a phone) in prison, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was arrested alongside Emmanuel and Christian, his brothers, on January 26, 2018 on suspicion of fraud. 

27-year-old Emmanuel was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud and sentenced to two years and eight months’ imprisonment while 39-year-old Christian was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property and sentenced to five years and nine months’ imprisonment.

Andrew was arrested on April 11, 2018 after he was identified as a significant associate and was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Queen, Bonaventure’s wife, and Grace, Andrew’s wife, received fraudulent funds into their own personal bank accounts and were both found guilty of acquiring/possessing criminal property. While Queen was sentenced to a community order, Grace got a conditional discharge.

Mugshots of members of the criminal network [Met Police UK]

Mugshots of members of the criminal network [Met Police UK]

During the trial, the court heard how Bonaventure led the criminal gang to target businesses and individuals by hacking into their email accounts, and stealing large sums of money. 

The gang used computer malware to intercept and steal the log-in details of email accounts belonging to businesses and private individuals worldwide, with the intent of identifying high-value financial transactions.

The gang then intercepted emails about these transactions and sent spoof emails, duping the victims into paying the funds into alternative UK-based mule bank accounts they controlled instead of the intended recipient.

Detectives discovered a total of 165 mule accounts which were used to receive the proceeds of the diversion fraud before they were transferred to other accounts, some of them untraceable. 

The gang of fraudsters also used the funds from mule accounts to buy and export thousands of pounds of baby milk to Nigeria, to launder the money.

A total of 228 separate frauds were discovered to have been committed by the gang between 2014 to 2018 totalling a £10,112,312.54 coup.

The Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad launched an investigation into the gang after receiving referrals from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s Action Fraud whose service allows both domestic and overseas victims to report fraud online.

Nadeem was arrested at Heathrow airport on February 14, 2018, and was found to have established a sham company and opened business bank accounts, one of which received £1.9 million on behalf of the gang. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and was sentenced to two years and three months’ imprisonment.

Mansoor and Mohammed sourced mule accounts for the gang and were separately arrested in April 2018. 27-year-old Mansoor was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property and sentenced to six years and nine months’ imprisonment.

Mohammed was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property but won’t be sentenced until a later date fixed by the court.

Ionut pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to money laundering and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

UK authorities will now begin confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to try and recover the money stolen with many of the gang’s victims yet to recover their losses.

A total of 69 victims provided evidence during the trial.

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