The recent woes of top Nigerian internet fraudsters in the hands of the law started in May this year when Olalekan Jacob Ponle posted a picture on his Instagram page day after his 29th birthday in May.
In the luxurious photo, he was standing next to a bright yellow Lamborghini in Dubai, saying: “Stop letting people make you feel guilty for the wealth you’ve acquired,” adorning designer jewellery and Gucci from head to toe.
About 30 days later, this Nigerian, street named “mrwoodbery” on Instagram, was arrested by Dubai Police for alleged money laundering and cyber fraud.
Also, 37-year-old Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, “hushpuppi” or just “hush” as he was known by his 2.4 million Instagram followers is one of the biggest ‘catch for justice’ in 2020, so far.
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It’s a different type of GLOW and STANDARD when you start hopping out of Rolls Royces to catch a Jet just to attend fashion shows in a different continent. Your smile begin to be bright just as the sun. #SettingNewStandards #RollsRoyce #PrivateJet #LouisVuitton #Fendi #OffWhite #Nike #Gucci #Fashion #Dubai #Paris #VirgilAbloh #Dior #Sun #Nature
Police in the emirate confirmed they recovered $40m (£32m) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8m, 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million victims from these fraudsters.
BBC reported that Mr Abbas and Mr Ponle were both extradited to the United States of America (USA) and charged in a Chicago court with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from cybercrimes.
The two have not yet been asked to plead and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Glen Donath, a former senior prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC said: “I think there’s probably a certain arrogance when they believe they’ve been careful about maintaining anonymity in their online identities, but they live high on the hog and get careless on social media”.
These two suspects reportedly recklessly and arrogantly display luxurious lifestyles and wealth on social media and are often celebrated by many Nigerians.
Their carefree lifestyles on social media revealed their identities and activities for American detectives who monitored their Instagram and Snapchat posts.
They are accused of impersonating legitimate employees of various U.S companies in “business email compromise” (BEC) schemes and tricking the recipients into wiring millions of dollars into their own accounts.
On Instagram, hushpuppi said he was a real estate developer and had a category of videos called “Flexing” – social media lingo for showing off.
But the real estate “houses” were actually a codeword for bank accounts “used to receive proceeds of a fraudulent scheme”, according to investigators.
Ebuka Emebinah, the economist from New York admitted that the value system in Nigeria needs to be checked, especially emphasis we place on wealth, no matter how you got it.
He disclosed: “It’s a culture where people believe that results speak for you. We don’t place as much emphasis on the process and this has built up over time.”
It is not unpopular in poverty-stricken and morally-depraved Nigeria for fraudsters to be referred and celebrated.
Reports confirm that they even seat at leadership positions in some churches in the most populous African nation.
Investigations revealed that Nigeria’s value systems started declining in the mid-80s when the military took over and ‘legitimised’ corruption in Nigeria.
Many analysts point to the regime of retired General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) as the start of decay and moral depravation in the country.
IBB ruled for 8 years – 1985 -1993 and by the 90s, Nigeria, which was was hitherto known for moral uprightness, to an extent, became the den of thieves, drug dealers and fraudsters.
Stealing was highly stigmatised in Nigeria in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. Report says even going to the police station for questioning was stigmatised in Nigeria.