Nigeria/Africa Masterweb News Report
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Nigerian fraudster nabbed in S. Africa
- Alex Eliseev
(Tuesday, August 30, 2005)
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Private eye Daryl Els spent three months, and drove 1 000km, to arrest the man he believed bankrupted at least two small businesses in a multimillion-rand fraud scam. On Thursday he looked on proudly as a pair of handcuffs were slapped on a Nigerian man - the fifth he has had arrested in Johannesburg since May.
To pull off the sting, Els - who has 25 years of policing experience - created a dummy cheque for R9 000 and had an East London business fax it to the alleged fraudster at an agreed time. As police and private detectives raided the room where their suspect worked, the fax was loudly emerging from the fax machine.
The "deposit slip" scam, which originated in Europe, first appeared in South Africa a year ago and saw all the large banks embark on major publicity campaigns. One relatively small bank has reported up to 300 customer complaints.
The man, whose name is not known, was taken to Hillbrow police station and charged with fraud. Dozens of phone numbers, written on square pieces of paper, were confiscated. Els believes they belong to more alleged victims. Two known victims in East London are the owners of a printing shop, who were allegedly cheated out of R25 000, and a catering business that lost R22 000. Seeing these two businesses close down fired Els's passion for revenge.
"I am very passionate about getting these guys. They are injuring a lot of people across the country." To set up the trap, Els worked with Arthur Shorten, an innkeeper in East London. Shorten was approached by the fraudsters, but was aware of the scam and used the opportunity to bring the fraudsters to justice.
Initially, a "W Nkosi" asked Shorten for a quote for three nights' accommodation. Shorten faxed him a quote for R1 200. The mystery "holidaymaker" then faxed back a copy of a cash deposit slip for R10 200 - overpaying by R9 000. Later in the day he phoned Shorten and claimed he had made a mistake during payment. He asked for a refund, and a faxed proof of payment. The cheque later bounced.
Els took over and created a bogus cheque for the R9 000. He asked Shorten to fax it to the number provided when the time was right. Three police officers and three private investigators pounced on the Nigerian in a dingy room from which a public telephone business was being run.
Police communication officer Inspector Kriban Naidoo said the fraudsters were widely spread throughout Hillbrow, with many businesses having been identified as bases for fraudsters. He said arrests had also been made in connection with the notorious 419 scam.
Capitec, a small bank targeting the more vulnerable low-income groups, had about 300 customer complaints about the "deposit slip scam" since the middle of last year. They were referred to the police. Capitec was the bank where Nkosi's bank account was held, but it was registered under a different name.
After the first arrests in Johannesburg last month, a provincial police team was sent from Gauteng to East London to investigate. Meanwhile, Absa spokesperson Errol Smith said the scam was definitely a problem, but his bank had fought vigorously to inform the public about it. He said there was recently an outbreak in the Western Cape.
Pierre Steyn, managing director of the Bank Risk Information Centre, said there was considerable under-reporting by people who had fallen victim. He said the scam had run into millions of rands and was being adapted all the time by those using it. Many more people were at risk of falling victims, Steyn said.
The suspect will appear in court soon.
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