By - Adedoyin Shittu
The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested the CEO of Nigerian firm Invictus Group, Obinwanne Okeke, for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud.
31 year old Obinwanne Okeke popularly known as “Invictus Obi” is the founder of Invictus Group. According to his company website, he has 28 permanent and 100 part-time employees across nine companies. His company has also been extensively involved in sourcing, structuring, implementing and monitoring various private equity investments in African and Australian markets and has over 10 years of investment experience. His business interests span across a number of sectors including, real estate development, energy, and construction. Invictus Group operates in three African countries, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. Most recently, Obi’s focus has been on building energy-efficient houses that feed exclusively from solar power.
He was one of the bright stars celebrated for his outstanding breakthrough in a country that is filled with youths engaging in a lot of vices which has made them popular globally. Mr Obinwanne is not just an average nigerian but an intellectual asset.
Born on the 9th of November 1987 into a polygamous house in Ukpor village, Anambra state, he was raised by his mother and other relatives.
He has a bachelors and a master’s degrees (MA) in International Relations and Counter Terrorism (with distinction) from Monash University, Australia. While in Australia, he founded Literacy Africa International to raise awareness about literacy problem among children in Africa. He spearheaded the Literacy Africa project which saw 100 000 (one hundred thousand) books donated to children across the African continent in underprivileged schools.
After his MA in Australia, he came back to Nigeria to startup his company from investment he made while in Australia.
Young Billionaire and Motivation for the Nigerian Youth
In 2016, he was named by Forbes as one of ’30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 to Watch’ and the leading publication also featured him on its cover for June 2016. He was also nominated in the Young African Business Leader (West Africa) category for the All Africa Business Leaders Awards ( AABLA) in 2017. His group of companies, “Invictus Group” was also named as Africa’s Most Innovative Investment Company of the Year by African Brand Congress in 2017.
In 2018, he was listed on Forbes 100 Most Influential Young Africans in 2018, the list also included Davido, Falz, Ahmed Musa.
Obinwanne Okeke have raised the Nigerian flag on many international platform, he was featured by Forbes as one of the Forbes 30 under 30, interviewed on BBC, gave a Ted Talk, Yaba as a guest speaker in December 2018 where he spoke about “the DNA of the Nigerian entrepreneur”. He was an inspiration to many and his recommendation inspired the most laid-back member of his generation. According to him, “The success of a business is largely dependent on you as the owner. If there is any part of you that appears to be a limitation, don’t let it hold you back. Take deliberate steps to develop yourself to match your weakness, growth is continuous. Associate with people that will inspire you and are ready to support you. Develop these traits in the right proportion. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. Go for it. Start Something Today!”
He also spoke at the London school of Economics Africa Summit as a guest speaker.
Mr Okeke just got married and had a baby last month.
Mr Okeke was celebrated in and out of the continent and he seems to be one Nigeria pride but all that came crashing down for the world to see that beneath this facade was an international fraudster who hide behind a company while scamming companies of their money.
An International Corporate “Yahoo Boy” on Suit and a Great Resume to Match
The FBI did a thorough investigation for 13 months on the criminal activities of the Nigerian entrepreneur, which led to his arrest by law enforcement agency.
Mr Okeke, was arrested on August 6 in Alexandria, Virginia, on the same day he was slated to return to Nigeria. The arrest was based on a court warrant executed by Marshall Ward, an F.B.I. special agent who led the investigation of Mr Okeke.
He had travelled to the U.S. not knowing that he was being investigated by the F.B.I. and settled in Alexandria, Virginia, about 13 kilometres south of Washington D.C.
The F.B.I. had in June 2018 received complaints from Unatrac, an international subsidiary of heavy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar, that Mr Okeke gained unauthorised access to the e-mail account of its chief financial officer and authorised a series of fictitious invoices to the tune of $11 million.
The charge sheet reads in part “In June 2018, Unatrac Holding Limited, the export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment, headquartered in the United Kingdom, contacted the FBI. They reported that Unatrac had been victimised through an email compromise, which ultimately resulted in fraudulent wire transfers totalling nearly 11million US Dollars. After reviewing the documentation provided by the representatives, the FBI opened an investigation in July 2018.
The FBI discovered that after capturing the legitimate credentials of Unatrac’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr Okeke was able to log in and access the CFO’s entire Office365 account, which included all of his emails and various digital files, the logs indicated that between April 6 and April 20, 2018, the intruder accessed the CFO’s account 464 times, mostly from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from Nigeria.
“With full access to the account, the intruder sent fraudulent wire transfer requests from the CFO’s email account to members of Unatrac’s internal financial team. The intruder also attached fake invoices to the emails to enhance the credibility of the requests,” the investigator stated. The investigation, painstaking and far-reaching, lasted more than a year during which Obinwanne emerged as the principal culprit.
The F.B.I. also found that Mr Okeke had duped an American shoe manufacturer, Red Wing Shoe Company based in Minnesota of $108,470 also last year. There were other victims in Indiana, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, the investigator found.
It was also estimated that the accused have stolen $20-$22million from US companies from 2011 till date.
Download the original affidavit: Obinwanne-Okeke-the-FBI-affidavit
Aftermath of Obinwanne arrest on Upcoming Entrepreneurs in the Country
This high profile arrest of Nigeria’s most celebrated youth is a big blow to Nigeria already fragile image internationally and a lot of Nigerians will pay for his sins.
Nigeria has had its fair share of citizen fraud round the world, both the high class and the low class are no stranger to fraud but yet again the country is emboldened in another fraud case involving an individual who have been invited on some of the highest international platform to speak on his success. This will have an enormous ripple effect that might affect the upcoming entrepreneurs. They will have to work twice as hard compared to other country’s entrepreneur to earn a modicum of trust and respect within the international community.
Mr Okeke fraud indictment is a shame to all Nigerians and not to his tribe alone as many have made it to seem, because to the international community, another Nigeria yet again has been busted for fraud. The rippling effect of this arrest will be enormous and a lot of innocent Nigerians are going to pay for yet another scandal by a single Nigerian.
His involvement in fraud popularly known as “yahoo yahoo” has put Nigeria in the negative spotlight and cast a shadow of doubt on every successful Nigerian entrepreneur who may or may not be guilty but is striving to breakthrough the international community.
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