The Dubai Police have seized $40.9m (Dh150 million) in cash and 13 luxury cars in the arrest of Instagram celebrity Hushpuppi, accused of online fraud and money laundering.
In a video shared by the police, officers explained how they arrested Nigerian gang leader Raymond Abbas, known as Hushpuppi.
Hushpuppi’s principal scam was to create websites that looked identical to well-known companies and banks, it is alleged.
He and his accomplices then used emails and messages to prompt people to log in or make payments on the fake sites.
The gang hacked corporate emails and directed huge payments by companies towards accounts they controlled.
Olalekan Jacob Ponle, known as Woodberry, was also arrested along with ten other men in an operation involving six police SWAT teams.
Along with 13 luxury cars, valued at an estimated Dh25m ($6.8m), police confiscated 21 computers and 47 smartphones.
The gang had 119,580 “fraud files” as well as addresses of more than 1.92 million victims.
Police said email addresses for 800,000 potential victims were discovered, and that the gang could have scammed as much as Dh1.6 billion from victims. Officers dubbed the operation Fox Hunt 2, after busting an African cyber-crime gang running a similar scam in February 2019, in which Dh32 million ($8.7 million) was stolen from victims.
Hushpuppi posed as a real estate investor and businessman, with more than two million followers on Instagram.
His account shows a lavish display of wealth, landing at Atlantis, The Palm in a helicopter and flying across the globe by private yet.
In one image he poses with his lime green Brabus Mercedes-AMG G63 – which retails in Europe for close to half a million dollars – wearing a lime green tracksuit to match.
In others, he wears Louis Vuitton tracksuits, a $150,000 Richard Mille Watch and poses outside the Four Seasons hotel in Paris.
At a wedding in Dubai attended by Nigerian celebrities that made headlines in his home country, he was seen in a video dancing around the room throwing $100 notes into the air.
Hushpuppi posed as a successful businessman “celebrating his wealth via social media platforms, in an attempt to lure victims from all over the world,” Dubai Police CID chief Brig Jamal Al Jalaf said.
“The suspects targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal victims’ credit card information and then launder the stolen money,” he said.
A senior prosecutor told The National last week: “They would send out letters from email addresses almost identical to those of legitimate companies, targeting customers of these companies, with the purpose of diverting payments to themselves.
“Initial information includes that he was part of this gang which fraudulently obtained cash and cars from people.
“His statement was taken by prosecution but this is just the beginning of prosecution investigations.”
Hushpuppi was wanted for fraud in Europe, the US and Nigeria.
Dubai Police chief Lt General Abdullah Al Marri said cyber-crime and financial scams on victims at home and abroad remain a major focus for the force.
“As criminals constantly change their criminal methods, the elite officers of Dubai Police work tirelessly with the latest technologies to tackle emerging and transnational organised crime,” he said.
Emirati police have targeted a series of organised crime gangs in recent months who were identified to be operating in the country.
Last week, a suspected drug trafficker linked to violent turf wars in Belgium was arrested in Dubai.
Nordin EH, a Belgian-Moroccan, faces various drug charges and was linked to cocaine smuggling and hand grenade attacks on rivals in Antwerp.
In December, suspected Dutch crime lord Ridouan Taghi was arrested in connection with 11 murders in the Netherlands.
It was alleged he was behind a third of Europe’s cocaine trade and is rumoured to have made €100 million from drugs.
Earlier this month, Amir Faten Mekky – an international gang leader wanted by Interpol – was arrested in Dubai.
He was associated with Taghi and the so-called Angels of Death gang and was wanted in connection with two murders and arson attacks in southern Spain.