Nigerians were shocked on Friday when reports emerged on the internet that America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested one of the young Nigerian entrepreneurs many looked up to as a role model.
Obinwanne Okeke popularly known as Invictus Obi is the founder of Invictus Group of Companies, an investment conglomerate dealing in construction, agriculture, oil and gas, renewable energy, telecoms, and real estate.
Obi, 31, was, until less than 24 hours ago, seen as a quintessential young, wealthy and celebrated businessman when he was arrested by the FBI for wire fraud, which Nigerians call ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ in local parlance. But his case cannot stand in the same category with the boys being chased around by SARS on Lagos roads. It’s a global ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ of a sort.
Invictus Obi became a continental sensation in 2016 when, at 28, he was named in Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 list and was featured in the magazine’s June cover. But it looks like all that has been a hoax with his arrest by the FBI revealing that he could be nothing more than a fraudster.
In an article celebrating Obi, the magazine described him as primus inter pares among 600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents in 20 different sectors that made the list. It went on to use his picture on the cover of that particular edition.
But in a painstaking investigation led by Special Agent Marshall Ward of the FBI, Obinwanne was fingered and subsequently arrested for wire fraud valued at over $12 million.
According to the investigation,
“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.