Over 97 percent of cash remittance transfers from Queensland to Nigeria are as a direct result of 419 fraud, Queensland police say.
Inspector Brian Hay, of the Queensland Police Service's Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, told journalists at the annual AusCERT computer security conference that legitimate transfers of cash to West Africa are rare. Most of the money is destined to line the pockets of so-called 419 fraudsters, who trick their victims into transferring them cash in exchange for promises of massive returns from large inheritances or semi-legitimate investments.
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"We've spoken over the last 14 months with 139 people. That represents about 60 to 65 percent of everyone that has sent money to Nigeria in the last 14 months. Of those 139 people, 135 are victims. We're looking at approximately just under $ AUD500,000 a month being transferred to Nigeria," Hay says. "Collectively they've sent about A$18 million."
Hay says UK authorities estimate that country has lost $AUD90 billion in the last 10 years.
The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Queensland police have partnered to fight the scourge, Hay says. "The Nigerian EFCC has been very successful in recovering billions of dollars worth of assets and has made millions of dollars worth of disbursements to victims all over the world. What we need to do is be able to provide (the EFCC) with timely intelligence and victim details, money transfer details."
The EFCC's Addulkarim Harisu Chukkol, who read a prepared statement but could not comment to the press because he did not have permission from his employer, told journalists he hopes the new partnership can make a dent in the booming trade. "In working more closely with the Queensland Police, we are establishing an avenue to receive and investigate complaints made by Queensland residents regarding schemes and scams originating in my home country," he says.
The EFCC has prosecuted 2,000 scammers in four years, with 1,000 successful convictions recorded with more on the way. While it's impossible to play down the Nigerian Government's success, Hay says
419 fraud has merely moved to other West African countries. "I had a snapshot look at Ghana and it's very disturbing. It's possibly three to four times greater than what we're seeing in Nigeria," Hay says.
The scammers have also become more technologically sophisticated.
"These fraudsters have gone into Internet banking fraud," Hay says.
"We know that they're becoming far more diverse and yes they are going down that technological stream... With the Russians? Not to my knowledge... (but) I'd rather not think about it."
Queensland will host a national Nigerian fraud symposium here and all law enforcement will be invited to attend, Hay added.