The sentencing last week in Nigeria of a woman involved in a cyber scam shows that the war against Internet fraud is making some headway, according to officials on the continent.
More and more African countries are enacting laws to counter Internet fraud and other cyber crime, and as the Nigerian case demonstrates, law enforcement officials are taking crimes perpetrated with the aid of computers seriously, officials noted.
A Lagos court last week sentenced a woman to two and a half years in jail on fraud charges in what is being called the biggest e-mail scam case in a country that has gained an international reputation as a breeding ground for Internet scams. The case was set in motion by Nigeria's antifraud agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The woman, Amaka Anajemba, was involved in a US$242 million fraud involving Stanton Development Corp., a subsidiary of Banco Noroeste SA Brazil, according to information on the EFCC's Web site. The case revolved around a scam involving a nonexistent contract, the EFCC said. The Lagos High Court ordered Anajemba to return $48.5 million to the bank, give $5 million to the government and pay a fine of $15,000.
Anajemba received the sentence in return for a guilty plea. Two men allegedly involved in the case, Emmanuel Nwude and Nzeribe Edeh Okoli, will go to trial in the next few months on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, according to the EFCC.
The EFCC was established in 2003 to fight economic and financial crimes. The Nigerian authorities will not, however, rely only on the EFCC and current laws to combat cyber fraud. The Banco Noroeste case was prosecuted on the basis of current economic crime laws. However Nigeria's cyber crime bill, which will take aim at computer-specific activities such as hacking into systems, will be proposed in Parliament in August.
"The bill is necessary because Nigeria's criminal justice system did not contemplate electronic crimes," Basil Udotai, coordinator of the National Cyber Crime Working Group told IDG. The working group was put together to draft Nigeria's cyber crime bill.
Nigeria is not the only African country working on a cyber crime bill. Officials in Ghana and Kenya, for example, are currently drafting cyber laws.
A few African countries already have cyber laws on the books. For example, the South African nation of Zambia last year enacted a law barring the use of computers to execute crimes involving commerce, privacy, piracy and pornography.
On its part, South Africa also has cyber laws in place, and according to Isaac Prah, vice president of the Africa working party on information technology crime, South Africa's cyber crime laws are the most comprehensive on the continent. The working party is a network of computer crime unit directors and specialist investigators African nations.
There are also moves to harmonize cyber legislation in the countries of the South African Development Community (SADC).
The move to harmonize cyberlaws in the SADC region was initiated at a meeting in Swaziland in April. The meeting was organized and sponsored by the Commonwealth Network of Information Technology for Development (COMNET-IT), an organization that is supported by the government of Malta and the 53-member nation Commonwealth Secretariat.
Officials said that the harmonization of cyber laws in the SADC countries will ensure cross-border enforcement of cyber crimes such as computer fraud, hacking and online scams.
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