Panic among notorious Nigerian Internet scammers after FBI makes arrests in South Africa

Members of Black Axe, a notorious Nigerian crime syndicate, are attempting to flee international authorities following the arrest of eight individuals alleged to be involved in the organisation in Cape Town this week.

According to a Sunday Times report, when news of the arrests reached the Black Axe, members across South Africa fled their homes and attempted to book flights to Nigeria.

Law enforcement agencies arrested the eight suspects on Tuesday, 19 October, during raids conducted on nine properties in Table Bay, Cape Town.

Rachael Honig, acting US state attorney, said that seven leaders of Black Axe and an eighth man who had conspired with one of them “were charged with multiple federal crimes relating to internet scams they perpetrated from SA”.

State prosecutor, Robin Lewis, indicated that the alleged Black Axe members could face up to 60 years in a US federal prison if extradited.

The court case has been postponed until Tuesday, 26 October, and the state expects to begin an extradition hearing following the suspects’ bail application.

The Black Axe crime syndicate’s logo

The arrests were part of a joint operation led by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service Investigations, and Interpol, with assistance from several South African authorities.

“The operation was initiated based on the mutual legal assistance from central authorities of the United States of America that was approved by the Republic of South Africa,” said Hawks spokesperson Katlego Mogale.

According to the Sunday Times report, the number of victims is believed to be in the thousands.

The indictment against the suspects alleges that they stole R100 million from around 100 US victims.

“[The suspects], all originally from Nigeria, are charged with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, spanning from 2011 to 2021,” the US justice department said.

It added that four of the accused would also be charged with “aggravated identity theft”.

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Panic among notorious Nigerian Internet scammers after FBI makes arrests in South Africa