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Nigerian drug importer fighting deportation in Sydney cons US pensioner out of $400k before convincing him to import 2.5kg of cocaine into Australia

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A Nigerian drug dealer, conned a US pensioner out of his life savings and later convinced him to import cocaine as part of an alleged global drug trafficking and scamming network.

Mr Peter Strand, 55, lost his job as an electrical salesman, his marriage and later $US400,000  to a series of romance scams, when he received an email in November 2013 from a scammer posing as a Nigerian Government official offering to help retrieve the funds.

Nigerian-born Patrick Dirichukwu Nweke, 44, a convicted drug importer who ‘d been in detention fighting deportation, orchestrated the operation from Villawood Detention Centre in western Sydney, and landed Peter Strand, in jail on drug charges.

Nigerian drug importer fighting deportation in Sydney cons US pensioner out of $400k before convincing him to import 2.5kg of cocaine into Australia

According to Daily Mail, the revelations are part of a Four Corners investigation which reports phone taps inside Villawood revealed Nweke’s actions as part of a global scamming network and drug trafgicking operation run out of Villawood detention centre,

Phone taps recorded inside Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre  uncovered the inner workings of the global fraud and drug trafficking network that used a serial scam victim to smuggle drugs into Australia.

The phone intercepts, obtained by Four Corners, reveal how Nweke directed and financed the operation using an American disability pensioner, who he had never met, as a drug mule.

Nigerian drug importer fighting deportation in Sydney cons US pensioner out of $400k before convincing him to import 2.5kg of cocaine into Australia

Nweke was recorded by the NSW Crime Commission and NSW Police as he used smuggled phones to coordinate with operatives in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia to lure Peter Strand, to Sydney airport with 2.5 kilograms of cocaine.

A Four Corners investigation has found Nweke’s syndicate was part of a worldwide network of crimeorganisations that originated in Nigeria and are now making billions of dollars a year from online fraud, drug smuggling and money laundering.

Mr Strand alone was conned out of $400,000 as part of a romance scam and spent 18 months behind bars in Sydney accused of importing 2.5kg of cocaine in 2014.

‘It was extremely well organised,’ Mr Strand told Monday night’s Four Corners in the town of Fox River Grove, near Chicago, where he has returned after spending 18 months in a Sydney jail accused of importing cocaine.

“I was hoodwinked, I was coerced, convinced or otherwise led to believe that something was going to happen that never happened.”

The retiree’s woes began after he received an email in November 2013 from someone posing as a Nigerian Government official.Soon he was in almost constant communication with the scammer who referred to himself only as ‘Bricks Manuel’.

ABC news also reported that Mr Strand’s ill-health and overt use of an oxygen pipe was cunningly targeted as it made him the perfect potential smuggler.

The New South Wales Crime Commission stumbled upon the operation to lure Mr Strand from the US when they heard Nweke on calls in 2013 to a Chinese-Australian money launderer who specialised in shifting vast sums of money offshore for Sydney drug syndicates.

From November 2013 to April 2014, the Commission and NSW Police tapped 10 mobile services Nweke used inside Villawood to secretly call Nigerian contacts in South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, India and Australia.

At the time, Nweke was fighting deportation from Australia over his previous conviction for importing cocaine.

Nweke bragged on the phone about his ability to bring in “birds” — stooges to smuggle drugs on planes.

“I don’t put myself at the frontline,” he said. “I like to put other people there.”
He put out the call to his operatives to find a Westerner who would escape the attention of Australian Customs.

Within days, the ailing diabetic was in constant contact via email and on the phone with the official who called himself “Bricks Manuel”. 

“The intensity of the communications with Bricks at some point was almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day, sometimes in the middle of the night,” Mr Strand said. “It was virtually around the clock.”

After months of communication between Mr Strand and “Bricks”, Nweke received word from a contact in Nigeria that a potential courier in Chicago had been sourced by scammers in Europe. 

“The people controlling the man are in Spain,” the operative told Nweke.

The operative, who called himself Kelvin, described Mr Strand as a prize catch because he was broke, sick and frail.

“The man is the best,” Kelvin said. “He moves about with a built-in oxygen pipe — that is how he breathes, so no-one will even stop him. You will even pity him when you see him.”

Another operative told Nweke “the guy is very good for what you need him for, his age is good, he has something in his heart that helps him breathe”.

“This person is a white man, someone who is always online planning how to make money with people,” he said.

Nweke bankrolled the high-risk operation and planned to distribute shares of the profits through his international network, which his calls revealed spread into Spain, Austria, the Philippines, China, Japan and Bangladesh.

“Does this man know what he is doing?” Nweke asked in another call.
“What he knows, he is doing chemicals,” Kelvin said. 
“What they are told is that they are carrying chemicals used in producing money. That is what the marketers tell them.”

Mr Strand was told he was collecting chemicals to literally launder money, an outlandish scam used with surprising success by West African syndicates as one way to convince travellers to carry drugs.

“Supposedly this cash that I was going to be getting was marked with some type of dye, which needed to be cleaned off in order for me to get clean cash,” Mr Strand said.”The cash was in turn supposed to be for me, but I never got it.”
Mr Strand was sent on three trips to South America.
“There were people during the course of all these trips that would seem to come out of the woodwork. There was a network of people who God knows how these people all fit together.”said Strand.

Australian police were waiting for Mr Strand when he landed at Sydney airport on a flight from Brazil on April 29, 2014.

Customs officers found 2.5 kilograms of pure cocaine mixed with other chemicals inside two protein powder containers in a bag he had brought from Brazil.

Mr Strand was among 44 drug mules arrested at Australian airports between 2013 and 2016 after being drawn in by criminal syndicates, many of them unwittingly, using online scams. Mr Strand’s barrister, David Barrow, represented several of them

“He wasn’t the only one who fell for it,” Mr Barrow said. “He was identified as the type of gullible person who was vulnerable to this type of manipulation. They managed to tap into his weaknesses — he was down and out, he’d lost just about everything.
“It was tailor-made to meet the need to manipulate him and they had real insights into what made him tick. They were able to respond to him in ways that constantly reassured him … They knew how to mollify him, to reassure him, to manipulate his emotions.”

As Mr Barrow trawled through hundreds of emails between Mr Strand and his scammers, as well as five months of intercepted calls in and out of Villawood, the criminal lawyer and Crown prosecutor detected a criminal methodology he had never witnessed before.

“They seemed to be like a vertically integrated company,” Mr Barrow told Four Corners. They were able to source the drugs from particular places — in this case from Brazil but from places like China as well. They had people on the ground there who obviously were able to transmit funds for the payment of the drugs, they were able to source gullible couriers like Mr Strand who were white, who were ‘respectable’, who weren’t going to be closely looked at as they travelled through international borders. They would coordinate their travel arrangements, they would put them up in hotels, they would provide them with money, aeroplane tickets and then upon receipt, they would take acceptance of the drugs and introduce them into the market, whichever country they got to. It was a well-tried and I think well-practised approach.”

Mr Strand was found not guilty of drug importation after a trial in the NSW District Court.
Nweke was convicted of drug importation last year and is due to be sentenced next month for his leadership role in a global crime network.

According to the FBI, crime organisations that started in Nigeria have spread to more than 80 countries and are among the most “aggressive and expansionist” in the world. 

American cyber intelligence firm Crowdstrike has found the crimeorganisations have adapted low-tech con artistry from the so-called “Nigerian prince scams” of the 1990s into a global enterprise, making billions of dollars a year and conning individuals and businesses on an industrial scale.

“West African cybercrime is the biggest threat that we see on the internet today,” Crowdstrike’s vice-president of intelligence Adam Meyers said.
“We’re looking at over $12 billion in five years. It eclipses all the other threats that we’ve seen that are financially motivated.”

Former US Federal Trade Commission director Steve Baker told Four Corners police around the world had underestimated the cyber syndicates for too long. 

“Coming to terms with the fact these really are huge, organised, worldwide enterprises are something I think the police around the world are still learning about and we’ve got a long way to go if we’re going to do something effective,” he said. 

In 2016, the US Senate Committee on Aging reported that at least 145 scam victims, most of them seniors, had been arrested overseas carrying hundreds of kilograms of drugs.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) worked with counterparts in the US, Canada, Asia and the Middle East to investigate the syndicates that lured the scam victims into becoming drug mules. 

“It’s definitely not an isolated case,” Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told Four Corners.

“Between 2013 and 2016, a substantial number of drugs were brought in by people that were scammed by others. We seized 190 kilograms of methamphetamine, 19 kilograms of cocaine and 19 kilograms of heroin. These groups are very well resourced, they obviously have large numbers of people and they’re very well organised.”

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Umar Mohammed Bago, Man With Passion For Service

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-Why He Wants To Be Reps Speaker 

Umar Mohammed Bago is not just another member of the Federal House of Representatives, he is a man that has the wherewithal and the qualities of a leader of the 21st Century, whose antecedents show that he could turn a stone to bread and bring water out of the rock. 

The people of Chanchanga  Federal Constituency in Niger State knew better,  when they voted for Bago to be their representative in the House of Reps in 2011  and repeated the same in 2015 and 2019. 

Bago has since proven the be the best man for the job with the way he has influenced development to the area and touched the lives of the people in the constituency. 

The 45-year-old politician is an alumnus of the Federal Government College, Jos and he graduated with a degree in Political Science from Uthman Dan Fodio University,  Sokoto and holds a Post Graduate Diploma. 

His educational career continued as he went ahead to obtain Masters Degrees in Management, Business Administration and Finance and he is an alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. 

Bago cut his teeth in banking at the Central Bank of Nigeria, United Bank of Africa, Standard Trust Bank (STB), FCMB,  and Afribank. 

As a member of the Federal House of Representatives, his experiences are for the records. 

He was a member of the House Committee on Banking and Currency,  Appropriation and Communication Technology,  Defense, as well as Loans and Debts. 

He has also served in other committees such as National Planning and Economic Development,  Media and Publicity,  and he is a member of several civil societies and donor agencies. 

In 2015, Bago was made the Chairman of the House Committee on Maritime,  Safety,  Education and Administration. 

While some of his colleagues could not boast of making differences in the green chamber,  Bago has so far moved 20 motions on the floor of the House, sponsored 15 bills and co-sponsored several others. 

The people of Bago’s constituency are living testimonies of his people-oriented empowerment programmes and constituency projects. 

The cerebral nationalist is well travelled, exposed,  urbane and speaks Nupe,  Hausa and Yoruba fluently.

Bago is one of the politicians that have no baggage and people believe that the House of Representatives deserves such a politician to be it’s leader. 

Some of his thoughts have become reference points for those, who believe in quality leadership and progressive minded politicians. 

Bago once stated that “I observed with continued amazement and curiousity that the issue of equity in geopolitical balancing  as enshrined in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, has not been seen and taken seriously rather the issue of capacity and competence is being touted.

“The question is capacity and competence in what? To move motions and bills? Chair committee sessions? Educational background? Party loyalty? humbly speaking; if these are the indices to define capacity and competence, I am very qualified.”

Bago  believes that if its the job of Speaker that “we are talking about, the Speaker will not be moving motions or Bills. Only Speaker Yakubu Dogara had moved a bill on the floor of the house of representatives in recent history of the house over the last twenty years.”

He stressed that a great speaker could  not emerge from disdain for the constitution with which he will be sworn in, adding that the capacity and competence must be situated within constitutional prescriptions. 

“Lastly the Speaker must enjoy earned confidence of members out of his relatability capacity and quotient 

“An effective Speaker must be able to ride on provable ability that every member  and stakeholders will find comfort  and accommodation in him, by reputation. 

“I am called Mr.Relatable because this is what my life embodies and it did not start with the aspiration to be Speaker,” he said. 

Bago was quoted to have said that the demand for equity is at the “nucleus of my aspiration before my nature as a very relatable personality or my capacity and competence,  and so demanding  for equitable treatment is not about indulging or being gratuitous to the North Central, rather its fact based and well earned, not frivolous; from the facts that the North Central zone gave our party the third highest votes at the 2019 Presidential election, to the zone never had a speaker of house of Representatives in 20years since 1999! 

“These are facts! Of course in the mix is the need for a youth inclusion at that level of our political administration; these are claims that are real making my aspiration legitimate, fair and just…”

He said further that “I just watched the Seun Okinbaloye’s Politics Today and saw how the North Central geopolitical zone asking for equity was dismissively and condescendingly referred to by my colleague Hon. Abdulmumini, when he said there are other positions “within” the house leadership that the North Central can be “given”, affirming that south west zone(lagos) that gave our party 2million votes and has Vice President of Nigeria by entitlement should also get the Speaker House of Representatives while Northcentral geopolitical zone that gave APC/President Buhari 2.4million votes should settle for Chief whip?Or Deputy Whip..etc! My heart bleeds…”

He maintained that a zone that in 20 years had never produced Speaker or Deputy inspite of huge support for APC…where is equity, justice, fairness that the Nigerian constitution  and that of APC prescribed. 

“A case of a father of six openly showing favouritism to a child out of  the six, in a six bedroom  house is giving two rooms to the favourite child and asking four others to take the remaining four rooms and sending one child to go and stay in the boy’s quarters, even when he has been a good child… hmmm…May God bless Nigeria…” he said. 

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FG: We’ve not found a formula to end fuel subsidy

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The federal government says it is yet to devise a workable formula for the removal of fuel subsidy.

Speaking at the federal executive council meeting, Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, said removal of subsidy would have negative effect on vulnerable Nigerians.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), had advised Nigeria and other countries to remove fuel subsidy, saying the money spent on subsidy can be redirected to health and education.

Four days after making the suggestion, Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, said the landing cost of petrol is now N180 per litre, with the federal government spending N1.86bn on subsidy daily.

Ahmed explained that while the country appreciates the advice of the IMF, what works for others may not be operable within Nigeria’s context, describing the country as unique.

She said the government is still considering various options and until a decision is reached, no action will be taken.

“In some countries, they provided buses to transport people, in some countries they provide subsidies in a manner that the people that are directly requiring the subsidies,” Ahmed said.

“We have not found a way to do it. What we are doing now, the subsidy, it is everybody that it benefiting, whereas it is the people who are really vulnerable that need subsidy.

“So, in the executive with the support of the legislature, we have to find a formula that will work for Nigeria. And until we do that, we should not be contemplating removing the subsidy because, indeed when we do, there will be people that will suffer. So, we are not yet there.

“We discussed this periodically under the Economic Management Team but we still haven’t found a formula that works for Nigeria. And you know that Nigeria is unique. What works for Ghana might not work here.

“So, it’s still work in progress for and there is no intention to remove fuel subsidy at this time.”

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Gov. Yahya Bello Declares For Second Term, Gives Reasons

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Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, on Wednesday, officially declared his intention to seek reelection for a second term on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Bello made the declaration while inaugurating the board of the State House of Assembly Service Commission at Banquet hall Government House, Lokoja.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has slated the governorship election in the state for Nov. 2.

The governor said his declaration came after consultations with the leadership of his party both at the national and state levels and pressure from the people of the state on him to seek re-election.

He added that his decision is premised on the official release of the State’s Election time table by INEC.

“I would like to inform the good people of the state, the APC family and supporters from the state, the Local Government Areas (LGAs) down to the wards and polling units, as well as various stakeholders, opinion molders, families and friends of my interest to run for a second term in office as the Executive Governor of the state.

”I have sought the blessing of the Almighty God and our good people; I will have to contest for the second term so that we can build on our modest achievements so far in the state by taking it to the next level,” Bello said.

He urged members of the board to always let the interest of the state be paramount in their mind, and shun any form of tribal or religious sentiment.

He further enjoined them to serve well with all their capacity and ensure they cooperate with the members of the state House of Assembly.

Mr Matthew Kolawole, the Speaker, commended the governor for his magnanimity to have signed the bill and for inaugurating the board.

”All of us in the House of Assembly are happy with the inauguration of the board of the commission, because it marks the beginning of our financial autonomy,” Matthew said.

He expressed happiness over the governor’s declaration for second term bid, saying they had been expecting it.

“Our prime objective right now is to see him returning on Nov. 2, as the 5th executive governor of the state, and it shall come to past,” he said.

Mr Andas Momoh-Jimoh, the Chairman of the Commission, commended the governor for the opportunity given to them to serve.

”I believed in oneness and unity of the state and I am going to carry out this assignment without any bias, fear, favor or any religious or tribal sentiment,” he said.

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