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National Foods Loses US$6m To Cybercriminals In Zimbabwe

4 months ago
Mon, 22 May 2023 10:25:37 GMT
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National Foods Loses US$6m To Cybercriminals In Zimbabwe

National Foods, a local food product manufacturer, lost over US$6 million to cybercriminals who hacked into its computer systems and accessed credentials to transfer funds from its bank accounts.

The suspects, including two foreigners, used a phishing scam to send fraudulent emails to the company’s finance manager, purportedly from a South African financial institution.

Upon opening the email, Natfoods’ computer system was corrupted, giving the fraudsters access to the company’s financial transactions. The scammers then used the finance administrator’s credentials to instruct the company’s banks to deposit money into their own accounts in South Africa. This is one of the biggest cybercrimes ever reported in the country.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, confirmed the case. He said:

I can confirm that we have that case. I will have the full details by Monday.

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What Happened:

According to sources close to the case, local banks received what they believed were legitimate instructions to transfer funds from Natfoods. Funds were transferred into two South African banks, FNB and First Rand Bank, on multiple occasions between September and October of last year.

The fraudulent activity was only discovered during an internal financial audit in November. An investigation was launched, revealing that Natfoods’ computer system had been compromised. The investigation looked into transactions between Natfoods and two local banks that had worked with the company. 

Sources have reported that investigations show that the computer system of the company was hacked through the finance manager’s email.

The fraudulent activity went unnoticed until one of the banks raised concerns regarding an overdraft, revealing that funds had been transferred to South African banks. The matter was reported to the CID Commercial Crimes Department, and investigations are ongoing.

The scammers have withdrawn approximately US$3.5 million out of the total US$6 million that was taken. A High Court order in South Africa was obtained to freeze bank accounts containing part of the funds pending investigations.

Who are the Cybercriminals:

The Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, with assistance from South African authorities, has obtained a seizure order for properties suspected to have been bought using proceeds of the crime. The South African authorities have seized a fleet of vehicles and a mansion in Johannesburg.

Two individuals, a Congolese and a Ghanaian, have been identified as the masterminds behind the crime, with leads indicating the involvement of Zimbabwean nationals.

An investigating team led by a high-ranking official from the NPA will leave for South Africa today to conduct further inquiries into the case, working with the South African police.

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