Dubai Police have seized Dh150 million ($40.9m) in cash and more than a dozen luxury cars in the arrest of an Instagram celebrity accused of online fraud and money laundering.
In a video shared by the police, officers explained how they arrested Nigerian gang leader Raymond Abbas, known as Hushpuppi.
Hushpuppi’s principal scam was to create websites that looked identical to well-known companies and banks, it is alleged.
He and his accomplices then used emails and messages to prompt people to log in or make payments on the fake sites.
The gang hacked corporate emails and directed huge payments by companies towards accounts they controlled.
Olalekan Jacob Ponle, known as Woodberry, was also arrested along with ten other men in an operation involving six police SWAT teams.
Along with 13 luxury cars, valued at an estimated Dh25m ($6.8m), police confiscated 21 computers and 47 smartphones.
The gang had 119,580 “fraud files” as well as addresses of more than 1.92 million victims.
Police said email addresses for 800,000 potential victims were discovered, and that the gang could have scammed as much as Dh1.6 billion from victims. Officers dubbed the operation Fox Hunt 2, after busting an African cybercrime gang running a similar scam in February 2019, in which Dh32 million ($8.7 million) was stolen from victims.
Hushpuppi posed as a real estate investor and businessman, with more than two million followers on Instagram.
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His account shows a lavish display of wealth, landing at Atlantis, The Palm in a helicopter and flying across the globe by private jet.
In one image he poses with his lime green Brabus Mercedes-AMG G63 – which retails in Europe for close to half a million dollars – wearing a lime green tracksuit to match.
In others, he wears Louis Vuitton tracksuits, wears a $150,000 Richard Mille Watch and poses outside the Four Seasons hotel in Paris.
At a wedding in Dubai attended by Nigerian celebrities that made headlines in his home country, he was seen in a video dancing around the room throwing $100 notes into the air.
Hushpuppi posed as a successful businessman “celebrating his wealth via social media platforms, in an attempt to lure victims from all over the world,” Dubai Police CID chief Brig Jamal Al Jalaf said.
“The suspects’ targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal victims’ credit card information and then launder the stolen money,” he said.< A senior prosecutor told The National last week: “They would send out letters from email addresses almost identical to those of legitimate companies, targeting customers of these companies, with the purpose of diverting payments to themselves.< “Initial information includes that he was part of this gang which fraudulently obtained cash and cars from people. “His statement was taken by the prosecution but this is just the beginning of prosecution investigations.” Hushpuppi was wanted for fraud in Europe, the US and Nigeria. According to Nigerian media, he was extradited to the US state of Pennsylvania this week. Dubai Police chief Lt General Abdullah Al Marri said cybercrime and financial scams on victims at home and abroad remain a major focus for the force. “As criminals constantly change their criminal methods, the elite officers of Dubai Police work tirelessly with the latest technologies to tackle emerging and transnational organised crime,” he said.