A prosecution witness in the trial of Eze Harrison Arinze, has revealed how the suspected fraudster received $382,000 (Three Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand United States Dollars) worth of bitcoins from his victims.
The witness, Ogunjobi Olalekan, an officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, .made the revelations Tuesday, before Justice J. K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Olalekan told the court that Arinze’s victims were deceived into withdrawing their funds and depositing them into Arinze’s bitcoin accounts, thinking that they were transacting legitimate businesses.
Arinze was arraigned on March 22, 2023, before Justice Omotosho, on five count charges bordering on obtaining by false pretence and money laundering to the tune of $769,263 (Seven Hundred and Sixty Nine Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty Three United States Dollars).
According to one of the counts, Eze Harrison Arinze, sometime between April, 2022 and December, 2022, in Abuja, fraudulently impersonated one Charlotte Brain, a purported owner of Digitrades.Ltd/Digitrades.Net/Swiss-Earnings/Craystal-Trade investment platform on Telegram and in that assumed character obtained crypto currency worth $592,000.00(Five Hundred and Ninety Two Thousand USD) from his victims through his bitcoins wallet domiciled with Coinbase, a Virtual Assets Service Provider (VASP), thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 22(3)(b) Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2012 and Punishable under the same Act.
Furthermore, Arinze, alias Charlotte Brain, while being the owner of Digitrades.Ltd/Digitrades.Net/Swiss-Earnings/Crystal-Trade, a purported investment platform on Telegram, sometime between 28th October, 2022 and 7th December, 2022, in Abuja, obtained 9.771 bitcoins worth $168,000.00(One Hundred and Sixty Eight Thousand US Dollars), which was transferred to his bitcoins wallet address domiciled with the same Coinbase, a Virtual Assets Service Provider(VASP) under the false pretence that the said sum is for crypto currency investments, an act which contravenes Section 1(1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to him.
At the resumed trial of the case, Olalekan told the court that requests had been made by the EFCC for users on the platform who have deposited crypto currency to the defendant’s account and their names were provided. “About thirty persons on the platforms deposited various sums of bitcoin to the defendant’s account”, he said.
Continuing, he explained that those that were identified were from thirteen different countries, adding that the total inflow to Arinze’s bitcoin wallet address based on the response was about 15.5btc valued around $382,000 (Three Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand United States Dollars) and that the defendant had withdrawn about 5btc before the account was blocked.
“We got the information of these users who deposited the funds, showing their user identities, location, money deposited at different intervals, wallet addresses where these funds were sent to at different intervals”, the winess said.
He further stated that other vital information like “the amount they sent, dollar equivalent, email addresses of depositors, transaction identities”, were also disclosed.
Olalekan told the court that 28 out of the 30 depositors were reached through their email addresses to establish the purpose of the various sums they deposited in the defendant’s account and what they knew about Swiss-Coin, Swiss earning, Swiss coins and Digitrades.ltd.
After listening to the witness testimony, Justice Omotosho adjourned the matter for continuation to June 14, 2023 and ordered that Arinze be remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre.