A Nigerian man has been accused of duping Citibank into wiring $27 million in funds from the central Bank of Ethiopa to accounts controlled by fraudsters in Japan, South Korea, Australia, China, Cyprus and the United States.
The 37-year old, Paul Amos, appeared before a judge in New York on Friday where he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.
The FBI says Amos was indicted "in connection with an elaborate, internationally coordinated scheme to gain access to, or "take over," an account at Citibank in Manhattan belonging to the National Bank of Ethiopia".
The indictment alleges that Amos furnished Citibank with bogus documents authorising the US bank to accept wire transfer instructions from NBE by facsimile, and included a list of five senior NBE officials who could be contacted by telephone to confirm details of any fax instructions received.
However, the telephone contact numbers supplied to Citi did not belong to actual NBE officials in Ethiopia, but instead were Nigeria, South Africa and United Kingdom mobile telephone numbers used by co-conspirators.
The gang then authorised two dozen wire transfers, totaling approximately $27,167,078, to various accounts controlled by the fraudsters.
The fraud was only uncovered after several banks where the conspirators held accounts returned money to Citibank, saying they had been unable to process the transactions.
The New York Judge hearing the case ordered the detention of Amos pending a further hearing. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment.