INTERPOL has announced that the suspected leader of a transnational cybercrime syndicate has been arrested in Nigeria. The 37-year-old man is alleged to have spearheaded major phishing campaigns and business email compromise (BEC) schemes, which targeted companies and individuals.
The operation, carried out by the African Joint Operation against Cybercrime, which was recently established within the organization’s cybercrime directorate, worked across four continents to apprehend the individual. Launched in May 2021, the desk was created with the intention of empowering 49 African countries to fight cybercrime. The initiative was funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
The recent explosive uptick in cybercrimes has been called a “parallel pandemic” to that of COVID-19. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2025, cybercrime will cost the global economy $19.5tn USD annually.
Last May, the police operation, dubbed ‘Delilah,’ was initiated with the collaborative efforts of private partners, including Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and Trend Micro. Law enforcement and industry stakeholders were brought into the fold via INTERPOL’s Cyber Fusion Centre.
Together, these professionals gathered intel on criminal activities and delivered the information to the Africa desk, which subsequently worked with police forces in Canada, Australia and the United States to track suspicious activities across the globe. The private sector firm CyberTOOLBELT provided adhoc support.
The pay-off: a multi-continental mapping of the suspect’s movements as he journeyed from one country to another. The alleged cyber-criminal leader was arrested at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos.
“This case underlines both the global nature of cybercrime and the commitment required to deliver a successful arrest through a global to regional operational approach in combatting cybercrime,” said Bernardo Pillot, INTERPOL’s assistant director, cybercrime operations, in a press release.
“I hope the results of Operation Delilah will stand as a reminder to cyber-criminals across the world that law enforcement will continue to pursue them, and that this arrest will bring comfort to victims of the suspect’s alleged campaigns,” stated Garba Baba Umar, assistant inspector general of the Nigeria Police Force, head of Nigeria’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau and vice president for Africa on INTERPOL’s Executive Committee, in a press release.
The operation marks a step forward in internationally coordinated efforts to address the increasingly global nature of cybercrime.
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