$12m scam: Interpol nabs Nigerian cybercrime kingpin in South Africa

James Aliyu
James Aliyu

A suspected Nigerian cybercrime kingpin identified as James Aliyu has been arrested by the International Crime Police Organization in South Africa.

Aliyu was apprehended on Wednesday in a luxury Sandton estate in South Africa, over an alleged romance scam and business email compromise fraud worth $12m.

South African publication, Times Live, reported that Aliyu, who appeared in the Randburg magistrate’s court shortly after his arrest, is well known in SA social circles and on Instagram thanks to his lavish holidays and excessive spending on luxury items for him and his girlfriend.

Just like Ramon Abass aka Hushpuppi who is currently facing related charges in teh United States, Aliyu audaciously flaunts wealth on social media, though with a kesser following of 17,000 followers on his Instagram account Oldsoldier, compared to Hushpuppi’s 2.8m IG followers.

According to law enforcement sources, after an almost six-year-long investigation into the alleged scammer’s activities, he was arrested thanks to a multi-agency investigation that included Interpol, the US department of homeland security investigations and the US Secret Service.

Sources claimed Aliyu has allegedly been in contact with several major convicted and suspected fraudsters from around the world and that he is considered a major player.

Aliyu is believed to be part of an international syndicate, some of whose members have already been convicted in the US.

Among the fleet of luxury vehicles he allegedly bought with the proceeds of fraud were a Porche Cayenne, a Mercedes C220d and a Mercedes-Benz G Class luxury SUV. His social media profiles also depict him on luxury island resorts and luxury holidays in Dubai and the US.

Aliyu came into the spotlight in August last year when Sunday World reported that he accused actress Khanyi Mbau’s boyfriend Terrence Kudzai Mushonga of defrauding him in an elaborate luxury R1.2m($73.4k)-vehicle scam.

According to the article Aliyu believed a R720,000 Mercedes($44k) and a R500,000 Jaguar($30.5k) which he bought from Mushonga were stolen and hijacked by criminals he claimed had worked for Mushonga.

According to the article, he claimed Mushonga, a Zimbabwean national, approached him and introduced himself as Dick Lefa Nzula from SA.

Aliyu said Mushonga gave him copies of his SA driver’s licence, smart card ID and vehicle papers, which Sunday World has seen, for the change of ownership and registration of the cars to his name.

Aliyu also told Sunday World the documents he was given for the vehicles were fake.

But according to the article, Mushonga claimed he would not repay Aliyu because the money he received from Aliyu were the “proceeds of crime”.

The Sunday World quoted him as saying that he was “wanted by the FBI for scamming Americans millions of rand”.

In March 2020 the SA Reserve Bank confiscated R231,000($14k) contained in Aliyu’s Standard Bank account under Exchange Control Regulation 22E.

Aliyu is expected to appear in the Randburg magistrate’s court on Tuesday, where proceedings for his extradition for trial in the US are expected to start.

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