Nigerians have been able to swindle the Citi Bank in New York of about 30 billion dollars by getting it to honour a forged cash payment request from Ethiopia's Central Bank.
Three Nigerian men were arrested in Seoul on Thursday for allegedly withdrawing millions of dollars from Citi Bank in New York on the forged cash payment request, South Korean Police said.
The suspects, whose names were withheld, were reported to police by one of the local banks in Seoul to which the money had been remitted for their collection, said Han Jeong, Head of the Foreign Affairs Investigation Department of Yongsan Police Station.
"The suspects say they have already handed over most of the money to Ethiopian residents in Korea," Han said.
In August, the suspects sent a forged cash payment request from the National Bank of Ethiopia to the New York headquarters of the U.S.'s largest bank, requesting some of the Ethiopian deposits be sent to bank accounts in several countries, including South Korea, China and Tanzania, police said.
Citibank transferred about 6.4 million dollars to four Korean banks in Seoul, and the Nigerians have already withdrawn 5.68 million dollars.
The Police caught the suspects while trying to withdraw the remaining 720,000 dollars from a local Kookmin Bank, Korea's largest lender, which had received a request from Citibank to suspend the payment.
"After belatedly discovering that the documents had been forged, Citibank notified the Korean banks," Han said. "A Korean bank clerk thought there was something fishy about them and reported the matter to the Police."
Two of the suspects were in Korea on a business visa, while another was in the country illegally, Han said.
Police said Citibank officials told them that the forged document had signatures from the chief and the directorial board of the Ethiopian Central Bank and that the fraudulent remittances to several countries totalled as much as 30 billion dollars. It is not known whether the fraudulent scheme has been detected in other countries.
Police said they have yet to investigate whether the fraud could extend into a global financial scam or how the document forgery involving the central bank was possible in the first place.