Nigerian Government has reacted to the allegations by US authorities against 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a wide-ranging fraud and money laundering operation.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission Chief, in a statement on Friday, said the commission was “deeply concerned about the news.”
“We acknowledge that the fact that accusations do not mean guilt, and we hope that all the accused will be given fair and speedy trial,” Dabiri-Erewa said.
“We also ask those accused in Nigeria to voluntarily turn themselves in, to American authorities to clear their names,” She said, adding that the Nigerian government should “extradite them if relevant international treaties between the two governments are invoked.”
American authorities on Thursday unsealed a 252-count grand jury indictment charging 80 people in an operation that procured at least $46m from victims of internet scam jobs. Of all the 80 indicted persons, at least 77 of the persons were of Nigerian origin.
The suspected fraudsters used a variety of scams to allegedly target the elderly, individuals seeking romantic relationships, and small and large businesses, to convince them to send money online.
Seventeen people were arrested and taken into custody in Los Angeles and other cities in the United States.
The investigation began in 2016 with a single bank account and one victim, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” US Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”
The indictment alleges that at least $6m in fraudulently obtained funds were transferred through a money-laundering network run by two Nigerians – Valentine Iro, 33, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38.
The accusations came less than a week after a celebrated Nigerian entrepreneur and a Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 honoree Obinwanne Okeke was arraigned in an American court on August 9 on charges of computer and wire fraud.
United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation said Okeke and at least six other persons were involved in the crimes.
“There is a probable cause to believe Okeke has conspired with several individuals to access computers without authorisation, and using such access to cause the fraudulent wire transfer of funds,” FBI’s special agent Marshall Ward said in an affidavit he deposed to before Justice Lawrence Leonard, in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 2.