Life’s not great right now for Citigroup. The bank, who’s iconic tagline claims “Citi never sleeps,” is being called a “zombie” by the press. The TARP-covered institution’s seen its market cap do a deep dive, faces a highly public round of government stress testing, and is being dogged by rumors it’s on its way to becoming a banking version of Amtrak. Oh, and Citi was also recently fleeced by an international cabal of wire transfer fraudsters.
A Nigerian citizen, Paul Amos, in late February pled not guilty in New York to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud to the tune of $27 million. The 37-year-old Amos was indicted in connection with an international coordinated scheme to gain access to, or take over, an account at Citibank in New York belonging to the National Bank of Ethiopia. Amos allegedly gave Citi fake documents authorizing the bank to accept faxed wire transfer instructions from the Ethiopian bank, and included a list of five senior NBE officials who could be contacted by phone to confirm the details of these fax instructions. Of course, these phone numbers didn’t belong to NBE executives, but were mobile phone numbers in Nigeria, South Africa and UK that were being used by accomplices.
The group authorized two dozen transfers, totaling about $27 million, to various accounts controlled by the fraudsters. The crime was discovered after banks holding the tainted accounts returned the money to Citibank because the institutions couldn’t process the transactions. Citi would not provide an executive for an interview, but issued a prepared statement: "We have worked closely with law enforcement throughout the investigation and are pleased it has resulted in this arrest. Citi constantly reviews and upgrades its physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to detect, prevent and mitigate theft."
Amos was detained pending a further hearing. If found guilty, he faces up to 30 years in prison.