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Updated: 2 Nigerians charged over alleged multi-dollar COVID-19 PPE fraud

Breaking: FG arraigns 2 Nigerians involved in multi-dollar COVID-19 PPE fraud

Two Nigerians, Babatunde Adesanya and Akinpelu Hassan Abass, were on Monday arraigned at a Federal High Court in Abuja on 10-count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence the sums of €1.5 million euro and another €880,000 as advance payment for the supply of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) valued at €14.7 million from one Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn.

Also charged with the duo is Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd. Abbas is said to be managing director of the company.

Adesanya, Abbas and Musterpoint Investment Ltd are the first, second and third respondents in the case.

They allegedly cloned a Dutch company to defraud it of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) worth millions of dollars.

Read Also: Leveraging COVID-19 tools to fund Nigeria’s epidemic preparedness

They are accused of being members of a sophisticated transnational criminal network that cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV, Holland to transact with and defraud Hahn, a representative of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The suspects are said to have fraudulently obtained the sums of money using pseudo names.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who appeared for the prosecution, told the court on Monday that the two defendants and Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd were involved in the multi-million euro scam.

Malami said the amended charge substituted for the earlier charge dated and filed on Oct. 17.

One of the charges said the defendants obtained by false pretence the said sums of money through an account with Citibank, London.

They are also accused of conducting financial transactions illegally.

They defendants are accused of cloning and operating a website (Musterpoint) similar to the original which is based in Holland, Netherlands, through which the illegal transaction was carried out.

After the charges were read to them, they pleaded not guilty.

Counsel to the second and third defendants, Adu Ojo-Abah, moved for bail application. He pleaded with the court to grant the defendants bail, saying he has no access to them since they were arrested on August 15. He said he has not been able to put up any defence because he has not met with them.

Bunmi Aina-Craig, counsel to the first defendant, also prayed the court to grant Adesanya bail based on health grounds. She said from the police report, the defendant was sick and needed medical care.

She pleaded that in the alternative, he should be moved from police custody to get proper medical care.

However, Malami countered the bail applications, arguing that they were oral applications.

He said the defendants were not in position to determine where they are to be detained.

“No legal justification that the defendants be detained in police custody. Correctional centres are known to have efficient health facilities than police cell. They should be moved to the correctional centre,” Malami said.

Justice Anwuli Chikere adjourned the matter to Nov. 9 to take arguments on the bail applications while she ordered the defendants back to Correctional Centre, Kuje.

The two Nigerians were arrested by the police for their involvement in a major multi-million euro scam bordering on procurement of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

Their arrest was carried out in conjunction with the INTERPOL and the National Central Bureau, Abuja.

They were arrested based on suspicion of being members of a sophisticated transnational criminal network that cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV, Holland to transact with and defraud one Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn, a representative of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The arrest was made as a sequel to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) received by the central bureau from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice conveying a request from the German government for investigations into a fraudulent transaction on the procurement of COVID-19 PPE linked to a Nigerian-based bank account.

Discrete investigations by INTERPOL Nigeria revealed that the suspects and their Holland-based cohorts, one Eduardus Boomstra and Geradius Maulder, specialise in identity theft, cyber-stalking, cloning of corporate websites, amongst other cybercrimes, Frank Mba, police spokesperson, told the Nigerian public in August this year.

Citing an instance, Mba said the suspects fraudulently obtained €1.5 million and another €880,000 as advanced payment for the supply of COVID-19 PPEs valued at €14.7 million from Mr Hahn.

“Disturbed by the non-arrival of the PPEs, Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn eventually visited the corporate office of ILBN Holdings BV in Holland to inquire reasons for the delay in supplying the items only to find out that the company never did business with him and that the transaction was a scam,” Mba said.

According to him, the fraudsters cloned the company’s website and falsely presented themselves as representatives of the company before subsequently executing the fraudulent transaction.

“Consequently, he reported the case of fraud to the police in Holland and this led to the arrest of Eduardus Boomstra and Geradius Maulder in Holland and investigations extended to Nigeria,” he said.

Further investigation by INTERPOL Nigeria revealed that Adesanya received €498,000 from Eduardus Boomstra and Geradiu Maulder through his Citibank London account and transferred same to an account number domiciled with a Lagos branch of a leading commercial bank in Nigeria belonging to Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd.