A Forbes-rated young Nigerian billionaire and CEO of Invictus Group, Obinwanne Okeke has been arrested by America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over a $12 million (N4.3bn) fraud.
He was arrested last week on the last day of his trip to the United States for allegedly defrauding top American companies of huge sums. Notably, he allegedly scammed $12m from a steel company by hacking into an executive’s office365 account and sending an email with a fake invoice to the purchase department. His arrest came after Special Agent Marshall Ward of the FBI and the team he heads opened up an investigation in July 2018, following a petition by Unatrac Holding Limited.
The charge sheet reads in part “In June 2018, Unatrac Holding Limited, the export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment, headquartered in the United Kingdom, contacted the FBI. They reported that Unatrac had been victimised through an email compromise, which ultimately resulted in fraudulent wire transfers totalling nearly 11million US Dollars. After reviewing the documentation provided by the representatives, the FBI opened an investigation in July 2018.
“The FBI discovered that after capturing the legitimate credentials of Unatrac’s Chief Financial Officer, the accused was able to log in and access the CFO’s entire Office365 account, which included all of his emails and various digital files, the logs indicated that between April 6 and April 20, 2018, the intruder accessed the CFO’s account 464 times, mostly from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from Nigeria.
“With full access to the account, the intruder sent fraudulent wire transfer requests from the CFO’s email account to members of Unatrac’s internal financial team. The intruder also attached fake invoices to the emails to enhance the credibility of the requests,” the investigator stated. The investigation, painstaking and far-reaching, lasted more than a year during which Obinwanne emerged as the principal culprit and has since been arrested while on his regular visit to the United States.”
Before his arrest, Obinwanne Okeke was a celebrated businessman who had a ‘grass to grace’ story on Forbes. The arrested suspect is said to be the 17th child of a polygamous father who died when he was 16, and he reportedly moved from one relative to another before moving Australia where he “did all kinds of jobs just to survive.” He became a viral sensation after he got featured in ‘Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30’ list in 2016.
It is not clear how he made the list of Forbes’ 100 Most Influential Young Africans 2018, it should however be noted that he founded the Invictus Group of Companies, an investment conglomerate dealing in construction, agriculture, oil and gas, renewable energy, telecoms, and real estate. Invictus Group operates in three African countries, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. His company was named as Africa’s Most Innovative Investment Company of the Year by African Brand Congress in 2017.
Obi recently got married, had a baby last month and got listed among 100 Most Influential Young Africans in 2018 alongside Davido, Falz, Ahmed Musa. He was also nominated for the All African Business Leaders Award for Young Business Leader (West Africa) in 2018. The AABLA Award is the most prestigious award for African businessmen/entrepreneurs.
The young Nigerian who accepted an offer to be a Contributor for Forbes Magazine and published his first essay in May 2017, has however been arrested by the FBI for allegedly being a fraudster which is popularly known as ‘yahoo-yahoo’ in Nigeria.