THREE Nigerian siblings who were working for the leader of the notorious Black Axe gang Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo have been jailed for a total of 16 years after laundering nearly £1m to him through UK bank accounts.
Regarded as one of the most sophisticated criminal outfits that operates in the Yahoo Yahoo sector, Black Axe is used to launder money through the UK. On Friday, three of its members Okemiorukaye Nakpodia, 56, Esther Nakpodia, 35 and Unuakpotovo Nakpodia, 46, were found guilty of conspiracy to launder money at Woolwich Crown Court in London.
Esther and Unuakpotovo Nakpodia, both pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. They laundered the proceeds of hundreds of frauds between 2007 and 2015.
Police identified 174 suspicious transactions entering bank accounts. Money from a number of the victims of the original frauds ended up in the defendants’ bank accounts and was then laundered by the Nakpodias.
Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo, leader of Black Axe, recipient of the money, is the brother-in-law of the three defendants. Black Axe is a banned organisation in Nigeria and has been linked to decades of murders, rapes, extortion and drug dealing in Nigeria and across the world, with members allegedly swearing a blood oath to join.
Crown Prosecution Service spokesman Philip Slough, said: “We were able to show the Nakpodias were talking to Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo, the leader of Black Axe, based on conversations found on their devices. They talked about the amounts and what to do with the funds after they arrived, including how much to keep for themselves.
“This strong evidence confirmed that the Nakpodias had been actively involved for a number of years in a conspiracy to launder money which had been stolen by others using phone and email scams. This prosecution will play a role in starving a dangerous criminal gang of funds and we will seek to recover their proceeds of crime at a later hearing.”
Unuakpotovo was jailed for seven years and seven months, Okemiorukaye for six years and six months, while Esther was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Esther Nakpodia claimed to have never heard of Black Axe, denying links to the organisation despite the fact her sister has been married to the group’s leader for 14 years.
She denied knowing that Augustus Bemigho-Eyeoyibo is involved in gang activity and said she believed he was a reputable business man. However, Esther accepted being in possession of £28,000 when arrested and incriminating text messages were found on her mobile phone seized from her upon arrest, revealing her deep involvement in the laundering of these funds.
Mr Slough added: “Unuakpotovo Nakpodia admitted opening and controlling numerous bank accounts between January 2007 and February 2015. She received over £700,000 of suspicious payments from between 65 and 70 unconnected parties in 16 different countries but she also denied being part of a conspiracy to money launder the proceeds of crime.
“Okemiorukaye Nakpodia accepted all transactions relating to the bank accounts attributed to him, receiving nearly £50,000 of direct suspicious payments from eight unconnected third parties in three different countries. He claimed not know the source of these transfers.”