Australian victims of online romance scams could be funding deadly Nigerian terror group

THOUSANDS of Queenslanders being ripped-off by lucrative online “romance” scams could inadvertently be funding Nigeria’s deadly al-Qa’ida affiliated terror group, Boko Haram

Courier Mail

Overseas intelligence has revealed links between the scams and the Islamic extremist group, who this week massacred 2000 people near the Nigeria-Chad border.

Boko Haram also attracted international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school last year.

Research by the Holland-based financial information agency, Ultrascan AGI, found groups including Boko Haram were tapping into the cyber scams for much-needed funds.

Officer in charge of the state’s fraud and cyber crime group, Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, said Queensland police had held long-term “suspicions” about links between the scammers and Boko Haram.

“Terrorist financing had been researched and discussed over long periods of time, and enforcement strategies have been put in place since 9/11 because authorities recognise the necessity and value of focusing on such funding,” he said.

“If you are talking about money from Nigerian scams, or advance fee frauds, the general belief is that it is going into the pockets of criminals to maybe fund drug trafficking, firearms, and pornography operations.

“We are aware that terrorists have used financial crime as a method of funding operations in the past.

“We do know that Nigerian scammers have a global base and that some overseas agencies have touted about certain links (with terror groups),’’ he said.

“But have we established a nexus? We have our suspicions.”

Det Supt Hay said Australians lose about $90 million a year to West African frauds, mainly run by Nigerians, who are believed to be behind about 90 per cent of online “romance” scams in this country.

“Just this week, I’ve spoken to an elderly gentleman who came forward after sending over about $900,000 through a number of their scams,’’ he said.

Det Supt Hay said it was imperative law enforcement agencies collaborated on measures to stem the flow of money to the kingpins behind the Nigerian scams, who were rarely ever caught.

“So much cyber crime is being perpetrated at a global level, and we’ve got to improve our communications, our pathways and our co-operative spirit to work more effectively,” he said.

“Queensland officers have worked with Nigerian authorities, the FBI, and US Secret Service while we’ve passed on information to the UK, New Zealand and Spain to combat the scammers, who have developed a high level of expertise.”

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