- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

ABUJA, Nigeria (Agence France-Presse) — Nigeria and U.S. software giant Microsoft have formed an alliance to combat the Internet defrauders who have damaged the African country’s international image, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency said yesterday.

“Millions of people all over the world can only link the country and her nationals to the infamous scam letter,” said Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“EFCC and Microsoft have teamed up to fish out Internet ‘fraudsters’ in Nigeria and the West African subregion,” he said.

Computer users internationally have become accustomed to being bombarded by e-mail from Nigerians seeking to trick them into handing over information about their bank accounts or making advance payments on non-existent money-making schemes.

Specialists say that the “419 fraudster” — named after the relevant section in Nigeria’s criminal code — steal hundreds of millions of dollars every year from unsuspecting people.

In the biggest such case to date, a Brazilian bank collapsed after Nigerian confidence men persuaded a corrupt employee to divert $242 million of his employer’s capital into an imaginary deal to develop Abuja airport.

Microsoft markets the most popular computer programs controlling access to the Internet, and Nigeria hopes that after signing a deal with the company in London over the weekend, the company will help it track scammers, who now face stiffer laws at home.

The Nigerian parliament recently passed the stringent “Advance Fee Fraud Act 2005,” which holds liable not only the defrauder but also cybercafe owners and office managers who allow their premises and facilities to be used for the crime.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has proposed an amendment to the act to make it a crime for scammers — who are known in Nigeria as “Yahoo-Yahoo boys” after the popular free e-mail service — to send unsolicited messages.

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