Nigerian syndicate victims lost R100m: Hawks
Suspected members of a “transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria” arrested in SA are believed to have scammed lovelorn victims to the tune of R100m, the Hawks said on Tuesday.
Eight people allegedly linked to a global criminal network were arrested in a massive operation in Cape Town on Tuesday morning.
Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said eight foreign nationals aged between 33 to 52 were arrested in Cape Town in connection with “internet scams, money laundering and international wide-scale financial fraud”.
She said the arrests were part of a “joint operation” by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the US Secret Service Investigation and Interpol and with assistance from the Hawks serious commercial crime investigation unit, police crime intelligence, police K9 units, national intervention unit, special task force, Hawks tactical operations management section, the Criminal Record Centre and Cape Town metro police.
The operation, said Mogale, was initiated based on mutual legal assistance from central authorities of the US and approved by the Republic of South Africa.
“All suspects were arrested during a large-scale operation in the early morning hours of today and will be charged with financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire/mail fraud/mail and money laundering,” said Mogale.
“The suspects in this investigation are alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria,” she said.
TimesLIVE understands the criminal organisation referred to is the Black Axe, a highly organised mafia-style organisation also known as the Neo Black Movement of Africa.
Mogale said the FBI estimated more than 100 victims had been conned out of R100m since 2011.
“It is alleged these suspects preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees who were led to believed they were in genuine romantic relationships but were scammed out of their hard-earned money.
The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared.Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale
“The suspects used social media and online dating websites to find and connect with their victims.
“Another modus operandi used by the suspects was business e-mail compromise, where e-mail accounts are diverted to change banking details.
“They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites.
“Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob stories about why they needed money — taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, and so on — and then siphoned money from victims’ accounts to the amount of R100m.
“The crimes allegedly committed by the suspects hit close to home. Neighbours, parents, friends and family would be targets of this organisation.
“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared.
“We are confident this investigation will have a significant impact on this region and beyond,” she said.
Mogale encouraged people to report any suspected online scam and fraud to a local police station.