A Woolwich Crown Court in the United Kingdom has convicted three siblings who were working for the leader of a cult group known as Black Axe.
The convicts were jailed for a total of 16 years for laundering nearly £1m (about N440 million) for the alleged leader of the group, Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo, through UK bank accounts.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Okemiorukaye Nakpodia, 56, was found guilty of conspiracy to money launder at Woolwich Crown Court on 8 May. Esther Nakpodia, 35, Unuakpotovo Nakpodia, 46, both pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
They laundered the proceeds of hundreds of frauds between 2007 and 2015.
Police identified 174 suspicious transactions entering bank accounts. Money from a number of the victims of the original frauds ended up in the defendants’ bank accounts and was then laundered by the Nakpodias.
Bemigho-Eyeoyibo is the brother-in-law of the three defendants. Black Axe is a banned organisation in Nigeria and has been linked to decades of murders, rapes, extortion and drug dealing, with members allegedly swearing a ‘blood oath’ to join.
CPS’ counsel, Philip Slough, of the Specialist Fraud Division, said: “We were able to show the Nakpodias were talking to Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo, the leader of Black Axe, based on conversations found on their devices. They talked about the amounts, and what to do with the funds after they arrived, including how much to keep for themselves.
“This strong evidence confirmed that the Nakpodias had been actively involved for a number of years in a conspiracy to launder money which had been stolen by others using phone and email scams.
“This prosecution will play a role in starving a dangerous criminal gang of funds and we will seek to recover their proceeds of crime at a later hearing.”
The Woolwich Crown Court jailed Unuakpotovo Nakpodia for seven years and seven months, Okemiorukaye Nakpodia for six years and six months, while Esther Nakpodia has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
Slough said: “Esther Nakpodia claimed to have never heard of Black Axe, denying links to the organisation – this despite the fact her sister has been married to the group’s leader for 14 years.
“She denied knowing that Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo is involved in gang activity, and said she believed he was a reputable businessman. She accepted being in possession of £28,000 when arrested – this was money withdrawn from her bank account and was taking it with her to Nigeria to give to her sister and brother-in-law in person. A number of incriminating text messages were found on her mobile phone seized from her upon arrest, revealing her deep involvement in the laundering of these funds.
“Unuakpotovo Nakpodia admitted opening and controlling numerous bank accounts – between January 2007 and February 2015, she received over £700,000 of suspicious payments from between 65 and 70 unconnected parties in 16 different countries. Unuakpotovo also denied being part of a conspiracy to money launder the proceeds of crime.
“Okemiorukaye Nakpodia accepted all transactions relating to the bank accounts attributed to him – he received nearly £50,000 of direct suspicious payments from eight unconnected third parties in three different countries. He claimed not know the source of these transfers.”
Esther and Unuakpotovo Nakpodia are also subject to extradition proceedings concerning advance fee frauds in Greece, to be held at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at a later date.