Africa

FBI, South Africa hawks burst Nigerian syndicate in Cape Town

At least 8 Nigerians, aged between 33 and 52 have been arrested for links to an alleged R100 million internet scam during a large-scale operation in Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

At least 8 Nigerians, aged between 33 and 52 have been arrested for links to an alleged R100 million internet scam during a large-scale operation in Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

They were arrested in a joint operation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service (USSS) Investigations, Interpol and with assistance from the Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation unit.

Also assisting in the operation was Crime Intelligence (CI), K9, National Intervention Unit, Special Task Force (STF), Tactical Operations Management Section (TOMS), Criminal Record Centre and Cape Town Metro police.

The operation was initiated based on the Mutual Legal Assistance from Central Authorities of the United States of America that was approved by the Republic of South Africa, the Hawks said.

The suspects are alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria.

The group is believed to be behind hundreds of thousands of romance scams.

According to reports, those arrested were members of the Black Axe that preys on widows or divorcees and scammed them out of their millions.

Six leaders and the founder of the Black Axe organised crime group’s Cape Town chapter were among those arrested.

A statement on Tuesday by the Spokesperson for South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), otherwise called Hawks, Colonel Katlego Mogale, said: ’’It is alleged that these suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees, who were led to believe that they were in genuine romantic relationships but were scammed out of their hard-earned money.

’’The suspects used social media websites, online dating websites to find and connect with their victims. Other modus operandi used by the suspects includes business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order 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 – ie, taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts to the amount of 100 million.

’’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 that this investigation will have a significant impact on this region and beyond.

’’The FBI estimates that more than 100 people lost more than 100 million of rands in romance scams from 2011 till to date. To report any suspected online scam fraud, file a report via the nearest police station.”

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