Spanish police have arrested eight people involved in a Nigerian-led email scam believed to have defrauded Internet users of up to 20m euros (£13m), according to Spain's El Mundo newspaper.
Five Nigerians, a British man, a Spanish woman and a minor whose nationality was not disclosed, were arrested in the operation code-named Global Trust, which was carried out with the help of Interpol officials. Interpol could not immediately be reached for comment.
The scam involves sending out mass emails that ostensibly come from a prominent African who has tens of millions of dollars but needs help to access it, in return for a share -- often millions of dollars -- of the proceeds. El Mundo reported that the group arrested this week claimed to have money stored in safe deposit boxes in Spain, but told their victims a debt had been incurred with the company holding the boxes, and this had to be paid before the money could be released.
More than 300 people -- most of them from the US, France, Germany and Spain -- paid up before the Civil Guard swooped.
The police investigation into the scam began several months ago after a US victim reported the group to the authorities.
El Mundo said the group had collaborators in several countries. Web pages were designed and managed in the US, and those making contact with potential victims were based in countries as diverse as France, Great Britain, Germany and Pakistan.
This arrest marker the second such swoop this year. In May, South African police arrested six people on suspicion of being involved in a similar scam. Police seized a large amount of drugs, as well as computer equipment and false identification papers during the raid.
The Nigerian government has set up a unit in London to fight the fraud, but many people are still being taken in.
The Metropolitan Police, in conjunction with the Specialist Crime Operational Command Unit, has set up a Web page containing advice about the West African advanced fee fraud.
If you have fallen victim to the fraud, you are encouraged to contact the Specialist Crime OCU Fraud Squad by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.