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Nigerian police arrest two men over Germany PPE 'scam'

FILE - Boxes with protective masks at the state camp of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.
FILE - Boxes with protective masks at the state camp of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.   -   Copyright  INA FASSBENDER / AFP
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Nigerian police have arrested two men in connection with a €2.3 million scam to buy COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).

Authorities say the men "falsely presented" themselves as members of a Dutch company to defraud a representative of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The two suspects, aged 41 and 50, are members of a "sophisticated transnational criminal network", according to Nigerian Police.

Authorities say the men cloned the corporate website of the company, ILBN Holdings BV, before subsequently executing the fraudulent transaction from a Nigerian-based bank account.

When the equipment was not delivered, the representative - Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn - was "disturbed" and visited the company's offices in the Netherlands to inquiry about the delay.

He was then informed that ILBN Holdings had never done business with him.

The two individuals obtained €1.5 million from Von Han, as well as another advanced payment of €880,000 for the supply of PPE.

The equipment associated with the fraudulent transaction was valued by authorities at €14.7 million.

An investigation by Dutch police led to the arrests in Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. Two other "cohorts" of the suspects were also detained in the Netherlands.

Authorities say the four arrested individuals "specialised in identity theft [and] cyber-stalking".

The operation was carried out by the Cybercrime Unit of the Nigeria Police Force and Interpol Nigeria.

"There will be no hiding place for internet fraudsters in the country," Inspector-General of Nigerian Police said in a statement.

The two Nigerian suspects are due to appear in court soon.