Friday, October 30, 2020

Dubai police arrest Nigerian Instagram celebrity in $436 million cyber scam

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A gang of 12 fraudsters involved in a cyber scam has been arrested in Dubai, Dubai Police said on Thursday.

Those arrested include well-known Instagram personalities Raymond Abbas (Hushpuppi) and Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka Woodbery. They were arrested with 10 other suspects on allegations of fraud involving huge money.

Dubbed “Fox Hunt 2”, the operation revealed a hidden online fraud network that was committing crimes outside the UAE, including money-laundering, cyber fraud, hacking, criminal impersonating, scamming individuals, banking fraud and identity theft.

Police said the raid resulted in seizure of incriminating documents pertaining to a well-planned international fraud worth Dh1.6 billion.

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Lt General Abdullah Khalifa Al Merri, Commander-In-Chief of Dubai Police, said the success of the operation is another feather in the cap of Dubai Police.

“Dubai Police stand against money laundering and organised cyber fraud and online scams. We are up to date with the latest technologies and methods that gangs use in their crimes. We have a qualified team of officers to stand up against cybercrimes,” Lt Gen Al Merri said.

Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, Director of Criminal Investigation Department at Dubai Police, said they received information about a gang specialised in money laundering and online scams.

“The gang including Hushpuppi, known for his display of wealth on social media. He would pose as a businessman to lure victims from all around the world. A team of Dubai Police monitored the gang that was creating accounts on social media with fake names,” Brig Al Jallaf said.

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Hushpuppi often posts pictures with his luxury cars like Ferrari and Rolls Royce and a private jet.

According to Dubai Police, the gang used to hack corporate emails and send fake emails to corporate customers to change money transfers to the gang’s personal banking accounts.

“They were designing and mimicking company and bank websites to steal credit card data and illegally obtain victims’ money before laundering the cash,” Brig Al Jallaf added.

During the arrest, police found a huge amount of data on individuals, companies, bank accounts, credit cards as well as documents of money laundering, online fraud and hacking accounts of victims outside the UAE.

“The forged documents pertained to online fraud outside the country. The fraud was worth more than Dh1.6 billion. We seized more than Dh150 million in cash from them and confiscated 13 luxury cars worth Dh25 million,” Brig Al Jallaf said.

Police confiscated 21 computers, 47 smartphones, 15 memory cards, five hard disks containing 119,580 fraud files as well as addresses of nearly two million victims.

After further investigations and analysing confiscated items, Dubai Police uncovered sensitive information and files condemning the gang’s illegal activities.

Moreover, Major-General Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant Commander-in-Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs, said that six SWAT teams raided the locations of the gang during zero hour.

“The operation was carried out in a highly professional manner to net all gang members. ‘Fox Hunt2’ foiled the gang’s bid to deceive many victims across the world as they were planning to obtain their money,” Maj Gen Al Mansouri said.

Earlier Fox Hunt operation

In February 2020, Dubai Police arrested a gang of nine fraudsters as they were running 81 fake businesses across 18 countries around the world.

Police called the operation ‘Fox Hunt’ which revealed a hidden online fraud network deceiving victims into transferring money in return for job opportunities.

Colonel Saeed Al Hajri, Director of Cybercrimes Department at Dubai Police, said that ‘Fox Hunt 2’ is an important extension of police work to catch suspects of cybercrimes.

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“The gang used multiple bank accounts to make money transfers and deposits totaling more than Dh32 million. It was a unique and extremely professional operation.”

The operation prevented the gang from abusing 800,000 e-mail addresses, and foiled their bid to steal up to Dh4 billion, Col Al Hajri said.

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