Nigerian email scammer arrested

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LAGOS, Nigeria (CNNMoney) — A Nigerian man alleged to be the mastermind behind an international crime ring that swindled individuals and companies out of $60 million has been arrested.

According to a statement by Interpol, the man, known only as ‘Mike,’ ran an international criminal network that hacked the email accounts of small and medium-sized businesses across the globe.

Once the scammers had control of the accounts, they sent fake payment requests to the company’s suppliers and then diverted the funds to accounts they controlled.

One victim was conned into paying $15.4 million, Interpol said.

In another scam, the ring would hack an executive’s email account, and then send a wire fund transfer request to the company employee authorized to handle them. The funds were then paid into the criminal’s bank account, Interpol said.

A 38-year-old person was also arrested by the Nigerian authorities.

Both individuals are facing charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.

The arrest was a joint operation between Interpol and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).

The businesses affected were in countries including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the U.S., the statement said.

The alleged mastermind headed a network of at least 40 individuals across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa who provided the malware and helped carry out the scams, Interpol said. The gang also had money-laundering contacts in China, Europe and the U.S. who provided bank accounts to receive the illicit cash.

Following his June arrest in southern Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, a forensic examination of devices seized by the EFCC showed Mike had been involved in a range of criminal activities including romance scams.