4:42 pm - Thursday January 19, 2997

Let Justice Roll: TWO Nigerians: A Dee Jay, Taxi Driver handcuffed for stealing 180,000 pounds from Ireland’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment …security agents foiled attempt to launder extra One million pounds, names are Oluwagbewikeke Lewis, Bashiru Aderibigbe *Irish law enforcement wire taps conversation of suspects’ plan to hack government’s bank account *‘We have evidence to show criminal gangs operated by Oluwagbewikeke Lewis, Bashiru Aderibigbe illegally harvested 74 bank account information through their bogus email, sets up 57 bank accounts in online prepaid financial services using false passports’-Irish government *BY ROSE MANDE/SPECIAL Anti-money laundering reporter, Dublin

Let Justice Roll:

TWO Nigerians: A Dee Jay, Taxi Driver handcuffed for stealing 180,000 pounds from Ireland’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment

…security agents foiled attempt to launder extra One million pounds, names are Oluwagbewikeke Lewis, Bashiru Aderibigbe

*Irish law enforcement wire taps conversation of suspects’ plan to hack government’s bank account

*‘We have evidence to show criminal gangs operated by Oluwagbewikeke Lewis, Bashiru Aderibigbe illegally harvested 74 bank account information through their bogus email, sets up 57 bank accounts in online prepaid financial services using false passports’-Irish government

*BY ROSE MANDE/SPECIAL Anti-money laundering reporter, Dublin

END OF THE ROAD has come for two Nigerians in Ireland: Oluwagbewikeke Lewis, Bashiru Aderibigbe whose specialties are money laundering and hacking. These two Nigerians have a criminal gang they operate. Unknown for these gangsters, Irish security agents already infiltrated their phone conversations and were able to record their various financial crimes. So far, Lewis and Aderibigbe have withdrawn the sum of 180,000 pounds illegally, with other plans to siphon extra One million pounds. The two are now telling-it-all to the police in handcuff.

These two Nigerian men in Ireland were remanded in custody after appearing in court for their roles in a conspiracy to launder €1 million fraudulently claimed through the country’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). The men, Oluwagbewikeke Lewis of Brookdale, Midleton, County Cork; and Bashiru Aderibigbe of Ballincollig, County Cork, succeeded in laundering over €180,000, the court heard.

Irish law enforcement got a recording of one phone call where one of the men was heard speaking to the head of a Nigerian criminal organisation, known as ‘The Chairman’, in which they discussed the laundering of €1 million.

Prosecutors at Cork Circuit Criminal Court described how the fraud was carried out, by saying some members of the gang hacked information which contained the email addresses of Health Service Executives (HSE) and Tusla (a child and family agency) staff.

These emails were then used to send out fraudulent jury notices, telling recipients they had been called for jury service but that first they should confirm their names, dates of birth, PPS numbers and mother’s maiden names. HSE and Tusla staff were targeted on the assumption that they would be working through the pandemic and would not be making a (PUP) claim.

The criminal gang harvested information for 74 bank accounts from the replies to the bogus emails. These were used to set up 57 bank accounts in online prepaid financial services. PUP claims were then made, with the weekly payments to be paid to these accounts.

Between April and December 2020, PUP payments totalling over €180,000 were paid to these fraudulently opened accounts. 61 people – in whose names these claims were made – made statements to gardai (a unit of Ireland’s law enforcement) that the claims were made, the accounts opened without their authority. During investigation, the Nigerians were detected.

They were before the court for sentencing but it has been adjourned. Meanwhile, there was evidence of reference to another party in the gang referred to as “Ebony3.”

On November 6, 2020, an Irish police officer saw Lewis driving a flashy Mercedes Benz car and became suspicious. He appeared to be nervous, so a drugs search was carried out. The detective found two passports in other names with the defendant’s picture in both and two bank statements in other names. The defendant’s phone was also seized. The phone linked him to the co-accused. The officer discovered PUP claims had been made in the names of people who would not have been entitled to claim it.

€32,000 of the money was frozen by the state. The balance of around €150,000 has not been recovered. There is evidence of some of it being laundered through accounts in Germany. Between them, the two defendants are offering a total of €11,000 compensation.

Lewis’s lawyer said the defendant raised €5,000 compensation through family and friends which would soon be available to be brought to court. He has been living in Ireland for five years. He has two children.

“He attends his local church and instructs children in how to use DJ equipment and that kind of thing. He became embroiled in this, not as a ringleader. He does not have a substantial lifestyle as a result of his involvement. How he became embroiled is something of a mystery.

“This is not a charge that comes up that often – conspiracy in relation to money-laundering. It would have taken a significant amount of garda and civilian time to investigate. Huge amounts of time have been saved for the state by the pleas of guilty,” Lewis’s lawyer said.

 

Aderibigbe, a father of five, brought €6,000 compensation to court. He works as a taxi driver. His lawyer suggested he had a has done. He lives in modest circumstances. “He was granted asylum in 2005, coming here from Nigeria. He has contributed to society. Covid came, temptation arose, he succumbed. He was in difficulty with his income from taxi-driving. He could have skipped the country, but he stood his ground and abided by his bail conditions. He is involved with his local church,” Bashiru’s lawyer told the court. Conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in Ireland.

 

“The signed plea of guilty is the standout mitigating factor saving on time and costs in preparation of a book of evidence. The defendant has no previous convictions. He is 45 years of age and here since 2002. His family are dependent on him. He has shown remorse coming up with money to show he is sorry for what he did,” added Aderibigbe lawyer.

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