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CRIME

French police bust up Nigerian prostitution ring

French police said on Friday they have dismantled a Nigerian prostitution and trafficking network suspected of collecting and laundering tens of millions of euros across the country.

French police bust up Nigerian prostitution ring
A picture taken on October 19, 2013 shows a prostitute near the Matabiau railway station in Toulouse, southwestern France. AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA
Thirty people of Nigerian nationality were arrested during two rounds of judicial police raids in June and September following a 15 month investigation.
 
Police identified suspects who collected cash from young Nigerian women prostituting themselves in different cities across France, officers said, estimating the network laundered between €30 and €50 million ($35-58 million) in the last three years. 
 
“The collectors were moving money from Lille, Colmar, Strasbourg, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes or Paris,” said head of anti-trafficking agency OCTREH, Jean-Marc Droguet.
 
A hair salon and a grocery store in northern Paris were used as collection points for the money before it was handed over to carriers who concealed the cash in double-bottomed suitcases and left the country.
 
The carriers would sometimes pass through other European capitals and African countries to avoid suspicion, officers said, but the money was always destined for Nigeria.
 
“Everything was going back home,” Droguet said.
 
Two Nigerian mafia gangs, the Supreme Eiye Confraternity (SEC) and Black Axe, were involved in the network, officers said.
 
Police have so far managed to recover just a fraction of the money: €200,000 in March and €250,000 in June.

CRIME

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

Hackers who crippled a French hospital and stole a trove of data last month have released personal records of patients online, officials have confirmed.

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

The cyberattackers demanded a multimillion dollar ransom from the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital near Paris a month ago, but the institution refused to pay.

The hospital said the hackers had now dumped medical scans and lab analyses along with the social security numbers of patients.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the unspeakable disclosure of hacked data,” health minister François Braun tweeted on Sunday.

Hospitals around the world have been facing increasing attacks from ransomware groups, particularly since the pandemic stretched resources to breaking point.

The problem has been acute in France, where officials estimated early last year that healthcare institutions were facing on average an attack every week.

President Emmanuel Macron last year called the attacks during the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis” and announced an extra one billion euros for cybersecurity.

During last month’s attack, the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital shut down its emergency services and sent many patients to other institutions.

At one point, officials said the only technology still working was the telephone.

Rather than selling the trove of data, the hacker has dumped at least some of it for download on the “dark web” — a hidden part of the internet that requires special software to access.

Analysts said it seemed to be a tactic to put pressure on the hospital, even though public institutions are banned by French law from paying ransoms.

Cybersecurity researcher Damien Bancal, who revealed the leak and has seen the files, told AFP the worry is that other criminals will now launch scams with the data that has already been divulged.

In response to the leak on the weekend, the hospital severely restricted access to its systems and told patients to be extremely vigilant when receiving emails, text messages or phone calls.

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