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Frozen $500 mln in Angolan fraud probe came from central bank account with Standard Chartered

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa

LUANDA/LONDON (Reuters) – The $500 million at the centre of an alleged fraud involving the son of Angola’s former president was transferred out of a Standard Chartered account held by Angola’s central bank, the British bank told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Angolan prosecutor general’s office said on Monday it had charged Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the former president’s son, and Valter Filipe da Silva, the former governor of the central bank known as Banco Nacional de Angola, with fraud over the case.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said last week that $500 million had been frozen in the UK as part of an investigation into a potential fraud against Angola’s central bank and could be returned to the southern African country.

“We are aware that our client, Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), was the victim of an attempted fraud in Angola which involved the transfer of funds from their Standard Chartered Bank account,” Standard Chartered said in an emailed response to questions.

The bank did not respond to a question on how the transaction appeared to bypass security mechanisms.

The Angolan central bank, which has so far made no public statement about the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dos Santos is the highest profile figure charged since President Joao Lourenco succeeded longtime leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos last September pledging to tackle an endemic culture of corruption in the oil-producing country.

Reuters was unable to immediately contact Jose Filomeno dos Santos. He said in a statement circulated in Angolan media on Tuesday that he was cooperating with the investigation and had handed his passports in to the prosecutor general’s office.

Reuters has also been unable to reach Da Silva for comment.

Standard Chartered said it is closely cooperating with Angola’s central bank and British law enforcement.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that HSBC had frozen a bank account in connection with the alleged fraud.

The Financial Times, which reported the HSBC bank freeze earlier, said documents purporting to be from Swiss bank Credit Suisse were also used in the fraud.

The documents were fake and Credit Suisse was not involved in the transaction, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said the funds were frozen after the transaction raised suspicions, without naming the banks involved.

Standard Chartered, which has operations across Asia and Africa, ended its dollar-clearing operations with commercial banks in Angola in Dec. 2015 because it deemed it too risky.

Singapore said last week its central bank had imposed penalties of nearly $5 million on Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Chartered Trust (Singapore) for breaching money laundering rules and terrorism financing safeguards.

HSBC’s move to freeze the accounts and work with authorities to return the funds will reinforce the lender’s assertion that its efforts to improve financial controls are bearing fruit.

The bank paid $1.9 billion in fines to U.S. authorities in 2012 and agreed to install an independent monitor to improve its anti-money laundering controls, after it was used to launder Mexican cartel drug money.

A five-year period in which the bank faced criminal prosecution if it breached U.S. compliance rules again ended in December.


(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Luanda and Lawrence White in London; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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Cyber threat looms over Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

africa cyber crime

As more people transact banking and business online, experts raise questions about security from hackers targeting the continent.

Amid global alarm about cyber theft, authorities warn that banks and other businesses and institutions in Africa are increasingly vulnerable to online fraud and theft.

African and international cyber security experts, including representatives of government and the United Nations, will gather in Nairobi in June to discuss online threats and how to fight them.

As more Africans use the internet, businesses and governments are providing more transactions and services online. But experts are raising questions about whether those sites are secure from cyber criminals.

Many small and mid-sized businesses cannot afford expensive security measures such as firewalls and malware protection while governments also use templates to build their websites, which cost less but may also be more vulnerable to attack.

Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa see attacks

Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are among African countries that have already suffered millions of dollars in losses to cyber crime.

Nigerian officials estimated the country’s institutions lost $630 million annually to cyber attacks, theft and software piracy, nearly one percent of the country’s gross domestic product while online bank fraud more than doubled.

“Global tracking of cyber-attacks indicate that Nigeria is among the countries with high numbers of software piracy, intellectual property theft, and malware attacks,” Babagana Monguno, Nigerian national security advisor, said at the recent inauguration of a 31-member Cybercrime Advisory Council.

Monguno called the threat “a serious challenge to our resolve to take advantage of the enormous opportunities the internet brings.”

Nigeria’s new Cybercrime Advisory Council, established through 2015 legislation, is charged with promoting information sharing and making recommendations designed to improve cyber security. The country’s National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy outlines the legal, technical and institutional systems that will be required to fight cyber-attacks in Nigeria.

Kenya loss put at $150 million

In Kenya, authorities said online thieves took about $150 million in 2014, as cyber crime in that nation tripled over 2013.

A 2015 report noted that 25 percent of Kenya’s internet users are unsupervised teens that may be exposed to cyber crime.

One expert said many businesses in Kenya lack the resources and access to IT expertise they need to protect their online platforms.

Rutendo Hwindingwi, division director for Sage East and West Africa, said businesses need to implement firewalls and use anti-malware tools and have access to IT specialists who can quickly respond when applications or operating systems are attacked.

The Communication Authority of Kenya in April put out a call for tenders a study of e-commerce and cyber crime detection and prevention in the country as the government attempts to develop a strategy to fight cyber crime.

The authority said it had set up a team to monitory cyber attacks, especially those that target government systems.

South African bank customers warned

South Africa has seen cyber crime losses totaling about $65 million, according to one estimate.

The South African Bank Risk Information Center recently warned bank customers to pay more attention to security, especially on mobile phones.

The center’s chief executive, Kalayani Pillay said protecting electronic devices is critical to reducing the risk of being victimized by cyber crime.

Phillay said malware and phishing attacks were on the increase in South Africa, including efforts to target accounts of corporate executives to move large sums of money.

The country’s wealth and particularly its relatively high gross domestic product per capita made it attractive to cyber criminals, she said.

Risk grows with mobile usage

Banks continuously update cyber security measures, but criminals come up with new ways to steal from customers, she said. The risk will grow as more bank customers migrate online, especially banking on their smart phones.

The warnings come against a backdrop of global concern following two large heists this year at Asian banks.

In February, hackers sent more than 30 fund transfer orders totaling $950 million from Bangladesh Bank using Swift, a global money transfer system. The thieves successfully transferred $81 million to accounts in the Philippines.

In May, Swift revealed another heist had taken place prior to the Bangladesh theft but had only been revealed by the second bank, which one researcher said was in Vietnam. The amount of the theft was not released.

Hackers breach bank security

Swift, with 11,000 member banks, processes 25 million messages each day to process billions of dollars in transfers.

In each case, Swift said the cyber thieves bypassed security controls at the local banks to request the transfers.

As concern grows on the continent, the African Expert Convention on Cyber Security, June 22-23 in Nairobi, will bring together experts from government agencies, the United Nations, corporations and investors to discuss strategies for fighting cyber crime.

Organizers hope the event will enable participants to share expertise from different sectors and create partnership frameworks for enhancing cyber security. Participants will also learn the latest technical tools available to protect against cyber threats.

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