Nigerian big player in bank fraud jailed

AN INTERNET fraudster has been jailed for his part in a worldwide scam, which saw millions of pounds stolen from people’s bank accounts. Adewale Taiwo (26), who worked as a process engineer at Grimley Smith Associates Ltd, based in Brigg, was one of the ‘big players’ in the UK arm of the Dark Markets website – an invitation only forum for criminals to buy and sell bank card details.

Taiwo obtains confidential online banking details from chat rooms and bank workers. He then use the details to hack into personal accounts and transfer huge sums of money – of which he took a percentage – to clients worldwide. Taiwo, of Victoria Dock, East Hull, admitted at Hull Crown Court, of defrauding around £600,000 from bank accounts around the world, including NatWest and Halifax. Of this, about £240,000 was successfully frozen by the banks.

Police involved in the investigation believe the amount the Nigerian national, actually defrauded could stretch into millions. He was jailed for five years at Hull for conspiracy to defraud between June 2004 and February 2008.

Police authorities are delighted the court recognised Taiwo as a big player in internet banking fraud. “For non-violent crime, five years is seen as a stiff sentence and it recognises the impact it has had on our banks in this difficult economic climate and the misery he caused to individuals. Evidence gained from his computers are still being investigated by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The actual loss to the industry could ultimately run into millions of pounds.”

Taiwo was finally caught after the IT manager at Grimley Smith noticed other people’s bank account details on his computer and alerted the police. Officers found thousands of chat room conversations, emails and bank details stored on his home and work computers.

Simon Wayley, prosecuting, said: “This is international fraud on a grand scale, which he has been heavily involved in for a number of years. Money was dropped into accounts in Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, the US and Russia and more than £160,000 had been deposited into Taiwo’s own personal bank accounts since 2006 from unknown sources.”

The court heard one method he used was to set up a joint bank account with the customer, then transfer the money into an anonymous account. Another involved moving the customer’s money from a savings account to a regular account, then setting up a fraudulent standing order. His targets are personal bank accounts, including a pension fund and even a clergyman’s account.

Sentencing Taiwo, who moved to Hull to work in 2006, after graduating from The University of Manchester,

Judge David Tremberg, told him: “You played a heavily active role in an international conspiracy, in excess of 100 victims and dozens of financial institutions were put at risk. You have undermined public confidence in the safety of online banking.” The Judge then recommended that Taiwo be deported to Nigeria at the end of his sentence. A proceeds of crime hearing is to be held to determine how much of the money he stole can be retrieved.

Detectives investigating Taiwo said they may never have caught him had he not taken his criminal activities to work.The 26-year-old Nigerian had set up a normal life in the UK, studying for a degree in civil engineering in Manchester before moving to Hull and getting a well-paid job at Grimley Smith in Brigg. But his lifestyle was a front for his criminal activity, as he was a major player in organised banking fraud. Taiwo was discovered when an IT manager at Grimley Smith became suspicious after noticing other people’s bank account details on his computer screen at work. He contacted the police and, when detectives arrived at his workplace to arrest him, they discovered he had a hard drive concealed in a briefcase, on to which he was downloading information.

Det Sgt Chris Dawson, who led the investigation, said: “His criminal activity had become such a big part of his life at home that he had to start doing it at work, which was how he was caught. These people are very difficult to catch and it is really down to the IT manager in this case that he was caught initially. If he had not done it at work there is a chance he would still be doing it today.”

After the sentence, Mike Smith, managing director at Grimley Smith, said: “In late February 2008, suspicious activity was detected on Adewale Taiwo’s computer. We operate a state-of-the-art computer system with the latest security controls and monitoring systems and it was obvious that the activity was not related to our business as process engineers. We immediately notified the police, who responded very quickly and Taiwo was arrested.” He said Taiwo was immediately dismissed for gross misconduct and was later charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. “I would urge any other company, large or small, to be vigilant and ensure that their computer systems are adequately protected against this sort of misuse,” he said.

When police searched the computer equipment in his Hull flat, they discovered 211 files of information – one of which would be large enough to store the complete works of Shakespeare 364 times over. Within the files, officers discovered a comprehensive guide to internet fraud. Taiwo had information on all types of online fraud, from taking over people’s accounts and transferring funds, to attempts to bribe bank employees for information. Police discovered he had links all over the world and a lot of the technology to commit this fraud was coming from Russia. He had about eight online identities and had set up online groups, including a Yahoo group called bank fraud, on which he swapped information and techniques with other users about how to infiltrate banks.