Court Remands Mompha in Custody for Alleged N32.9bn fraud
After being arrested without charge, the Federal High Court in Lagos has finally ordered that Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha, be remanded in the prison custody.
Justice Mohammed Liman gave the remand order on Monday shortly after Mompha was arraigned before him on 14 counts bordering on fraud, money laundering and running a foreign exchange business without the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In the charges against him, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alleged that Mompha procured one Ismalob Global Investment Limited and retained in its bank account an aggregate of N32.9bn between 2015 and 2018.
The EFCC said Mompha “ought to have reasonably known that the money formed part of proceeds of unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said Mompha acted contrary to Sections 5 and 29(1)(c) of the Foreign Exchange Monitoring and Miscellaneous (Provision) Act Cap F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and he was liable to be punished under Section 29(2) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to him, Mompha pleaded not guilty.
While praying for a date for the commencement of the trial, the prosecution urged Justice Liman to order that the defendant be remanded in prison custody.
The defense counsel, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), said he was not opposed to the application for the trial date but said he had already filed a bail application for his client and served the same on the prosecution.
The prosecution confirmed that it had been served with the bail application but said it required time to read and respond to it.
Justice Liman adjourned till Friday to take arguments on the bail application and for trial to commence.
19-year-old American Pilot Impersonator, Swindles Cambodian Woman off N27m
Police drew the curtain on the swindling spree of a 19-year-old secondary school drop-out, Chigemezu Arikibe, using fake social media accounts to defraud a Cambodian woman to the tune of $75,000 (N27m at N360 to 1$).
Arikibe reportedly paraded himself on Facebook and Instagram as an American pilot working for a British airline to work out his scheme.
It was gathered that after establishing a relationship with the woman, Arikibe offered to send her expensive gift items and $500,000, for investment in real estate business in Cambodia.
The suspect reportedly told Sophanmia that he would send the parcel to her through a courier in Indonesia and asked her to send $800 for the service.
He was said to have contacted his friend in Indonesia to act as a courier agent and collect the money from his victim.
After sending the money, Arikibe came up with excuses why the parcel could not be delivered and persuaded the woman to send more funds accumulating into $75,000.
It was learnt the woman alerted the Nigeria Embassy in Cambodia when she discovered that “the American pilot,” communicating with her was calling from Nigeria and not the United States.
The embassy was said to have alerted the Nigeria Police, and operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team led by DCP Abba Kyari went after Arikibe.
A police source told our correspondent that the suspect was trailed to the Mbaitoli area of Imo State where he is based.
“The suspect was arrested with the SIM card and the phone he used in committing the crime, and when we went through the phone, we saw chats between him and the woman.
“Upon interrogation, the suspect confessed to everything, and he also said there was a man in Indonesia who helped him pull out the money from a USA bank account. He claimed to be an American, and that was why he gave the woman an American bank account. The worst was that the woman went and borrowed the money from the bank,” the source stated.
Arikibe, while confessing to the crime, said he learnt Internet fraud from his friend within one week, and he started on his own.
He said, “I attended Community School, in the Eziooha area of Mbaitoli and graduated in October 2018. It was Ugochukwu, my friend who taught me how to do Internet fraud. I opened a fake Fakebook account with the name Frank William, and on Instagram, I was Patrick William.
“I uploaded the pictures of an American pilot on my fake Fakebook and Instagram pages. The pilot later discovered that I used his pictures, and he started complaining. He even said he had been arrested three times by the police.
“My Facebook account was later blocked, then I focused on Instagram, where I met the client (Sophanmia). I followed her, and we started chatting. I told her I am a pilot, and we started discussing life.
“I told her I wanted to send expensive clothes, shoes, wristwatches and the sum of $500,000 to her. I told her that the $500,000 would be invested in real estate business.”
The teenager explained that he sent pictures of the purported items and the money to the victim, which convinced her to send money for the courier service.
He added, “I told her that I had sent the money through a courier company and she would have to pay customs tax. My friend in Indonesia acted like the courier company, and they contacted her.
“She was given the first bill of $800, and she paid. My Indonesian friend called the woman again and told her that the goods had been seized and they told her to pay $2,700.
“She paid the money, and they asked her to pay another money which was $6,200. She paid several other monies to have the goods released. She ended up paying $75,000, and I got my share.”
FBI Suspect Nabbed by EFCC
A 38-year-old man, Festus Abiona, who was indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for his alleged involvement in internet fraud has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Abiona had been on the wanted list of the EFCC for more than eight months over the alleged fraud case before he was finally arrested in his hideout.
The suspect was nabbed by the EFCC, Ilorin Zonal Office, according to a statement on Monday by the EFCC acting Head, Media and Publicity, Tony Orilade.
He said, “Operatives of the EFCC smoked him out of his hiding on February 6, 2020, in Arepo, Ogun State. He had gone into hiding and deliberately refused to step out of his house when he got wind of the fact that the EFCC was investigating him. For the past five months, he was in hiding.
“The FBI in a petition dated 10th of July, 2019, alleged that he was involved in Business Email Compromise and other internet-related fraud. An investigation into the case by the commission revealed that a syndicate that involved Abiona perpetrated the fraud.
“He has also refused to give a statement since his arrest, but he will soon be arraigned in court.”
Mother, Son Jailed Three Years for Internet Fraud
On Tuesday, the Federal High Court in Lagos, sentenced one Mrs Damilola Adeyeri and her son, Alaba, to three years’ imprisonment for defrauding an American of the sum of $82,570.
Justice C. J. Aneke convicted the duo of the four counts bordering on “fraudulent business trick and email compromise” filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Damilola and her son had pleaded guilty to the charges at their arraignment on Tuesday.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari, told the court that the mother and son conspired with one Kareem Russel, who is still at large, to defraud the Chief Executive Officer of American Cranes Manufacturing Company.
Buhari said they committed the offences in June 2017 and were arrested on September 6, 2019.
Damilola and Alaba were said to have carried out the fraud by “dishonestly representing yourselves as the CEO of American Cranes Manufacturing Company, and thereafter, you sent an email form with the intent to gain an advantage to yourselves.”
The prosecutor told the court that the convicts acted contrary to sections 27 (1) (a) and 23 (3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015, and were liable to be punished under Section 22(1) of the same Act.
The offences were also said to be contrary to sections 421 and 422 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38.
In his judgment, Justice Aneke said he would temper justice with mercy because the convicts pleaded guilty to the charges immediately, rather than waste the time of the court.
He sentenced them to three years’ imprisonment on each of the four counts but said the sentences would run concurrently.
The judge said, however, that despite the fact that the convicts immediately admitted guilt and showed remorse, he had the duty to administer punishment in accordance with the relevant laws, to serve as a deterrent to others.
“Consequently, I hereby sentence each of the convicts to three years on counts one, two, three and four. The sentences are to run concurrently,” Justice Aneke held.
Mompha Fights Back Suing EFCC, Demanding N5m
Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha the internet celebrity, has filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in retaliating defence, alleging unlawful detention and a violation of his rights.
He was arrested by the EFCC in October on allegation of cybercrime and money laundering.
In the suit he filed before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, Mompha is urging the court to award N5m against the EFCC for detaining him beyond the constitutionally-allowed period without being charged to court.
He prayed the court to order the EFCC to either immediately charge him to court or release him if it was not ready to charge him to court.
His lawyer, Mr Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), said his client, as a Nigerian, was entitled to the protection of his fundamental rights under sections 34, 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution.
Oyewole said his client was arrested on October 19 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by the EFCC which accused him of money laundering.
He said the remand order which the EFCC obtained to keep Mompha had since expired and he ought to be released.
In a 20-paragraph supporting affidavit, one Olumuyiwa Ajidagba claimed that “The applicant (Mompha) has been subjected to physical, mental and psychological torture in the underground cell of the EFCC’s detention centre.”
The court has yet to fix any date to hear the case.
The EFCC had said in October that it arrested the internet celebrity in Abuja on his way to Dubai, based on “actionable cross-border intelligence received from collaborative law enforcement agencies about his alleged involvement in the criminal activities.”
The anti-graft agency said, “Ismaila, who allegedly perpetrates his fraudulent activities under the guise of being a bureau de change operator, is always seen with his little son flaunting huge amount of foreign currencies on his social media platforms.
“Investigations have also revealed that Ismaila is only using the BDC business he jointly owned with his siblings as a decoy to launder his proceeds of crime.”
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