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Here are some of the latest news articles coming from West Africa.


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GSM Fraudsters After Anyaoku Arrested

The police in Lagos have arrested three young men, who attempted to dupe Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, of the sum of N150,000.

A statement issued by the police yesterday in Abuja and signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Haz Iwendi, said that the suspects had intercepted Anyaoku's phone call from London last June.

The statement said that when the suspects intercepted the phone call they directed Anyaoku to call a GSM number for an urgent message.

"When Anyaoku called the said line, one Idris Akinwumi, a part three medical student of the Univeristy of Ibadan, who posed as a medical doctor, informed him that one of his (Anyaoku's) close relations was involved in a serious accident and hospitalised in his (Akinwumi's) clinic,'' it said.

The statement further said that Akinwumi informed Anyaoku that the relations needed N150,000 urgently for her treatment. Former secretary-general suspected foul play and informed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Tafa Balogun.

On receipt of the information, it said detectives deployed all electronic investigative techniques, which led to the location of the fraudsters' operational base at Campos Street, Lagos Island.

During a police raid, the statement said that the GSM handset used for the operation was recovered, while three of the five-man syndicate were arrested.

It said that the three men had confessed to the crime and mentioned two other persons, who were now at large.

Meanwhile, the statement said that Anyaoku has expressed his appreciation to the police for ``this breakthrough in technology and in its new capcity to trace and crack down on GSM fraudsters''.

It quoted the IG as alerting members of the public about the new antics of fraudsters, who target highly respected private individuals with relations abroad, releasing personal information about themselves and their relations as this may fall into wrong hands,'' the statement said. 




Ndukwe said , Renic Investments Limited and AFZI Telecommunications Limited wrote to the NCC to explain their inability to raise the money from both local and foreign sources. 

Both companies, he added, said raising funds from abroad had been particularly difficult especially now that the United States (USA) government has told its citizens to be careful about how they do business with Nigeria. 

"So these created a lot of problems for these bidders so much that even though they expressed a lot of seriousness in the past and even now, without a solid financial backing especially from abroad, they could hardly make a headway," Ndukwe explained. 

He added: "The third bidder, Omnitel Limited, was contacted on Wednesday before the NCC took a final decision on Thursday last week and we were told that Omnitel was not in a position to raise the final bid price even if it was able to pay the $20 million deposit. This left Globacom Limited which had earlier on Tuesday paid the $20 million 
alone in the race."

Consequently, only Globacom fulfilled the obligation for the SNO licence and since the NCC was consistent in its rules especially as contained in the Information Memorandum (IM) for the SNO, it had no difficulty in granting the provisional licence to Globacom. 

Ndukwe noted that most bidders wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past especially the problems faced by a Digital Mobil Licence (DML) bidder last year and the one faced by the preferred bidder of the 51 per cent stakes in NITEL this year. 

The NCC chief traced the development to the emerging difficulty in attracting foreign investment especially now that America's focus is on fraud in Nigeria. The Cable News Network (CNN) on Thursday last week ran a 30-minute programme on fraud in the country and how many Americans had lost huge sums. 

Only recently, an American coalition group also blacklisted some Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for allegedly allowing fraudulent letters to pass through their networks.


Nigerian nationals target area residents with scams

In a Houston hotel room last March, Nigerian national Victor Okiti opened two steamer trunks to reveal what he claimed was $12 million in $100 bills.

Most of the stacks of "bills" were actually paper filler, and the $100 bills that were visible were actually counterfeit. But the Portland businessman who was ogling the cash wasn't supposed to know that.

Okiti said his only problem was that the bills had been stamped in Nigeria with the letters "U.N." and could only be spent in Europe as long as the "United Nations" mark was on the bills.

But he said he knew of a chemical that could erase the letters. Okiti said he would be willing to share the fortune with the Portland man if the man gave him $23,000 up front to buy the chemical.

That's when Secret Service agents burst into the room. What Okiti didn't know was that the Portland businessman had contacted authorities after the scam artist randomly targeted him via electronic mail last year.

The Portland man agreed to meet with Okiti in Houston, the hotel room was wired for sound and video and the trap was set. The con man had been conned.

On Friday, Okiti was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison for wire fraud and counterfeiting.

Okiti is one of the latest targets of an ongoing investigation into a growing number of scams perpetrated in the Houston area by Nigerian nationals. Other nationals operate similar cons, officials say, but for now, ones involving Nigerians appear to be more prevalent.

Since the early 1980s, federal authorities estimate that Nigerian scam artists have bilked victims out of more than $5 billion worldwide in what are known as "advance fee" fraud schemes.

The Secret Service estimates that in the United States, losses to these scams amount to more than $100 million a year.

Federal authorities in Houston would not hazard a guess as to how much money is lost locally. But since a Secret Service task force began investigating these schemes in Houston in 1999, it has received tips about the scams almost on a daily basis.

"They target Americans with a promise of a pot of gold down the road," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Buchanan said."Then they bilk them for so-called advance fees. They say they need money up front to pay bribes, or storage and shipping fees and the victims pay time and again until finally they realize its a scam or they run out of money.

"But it's like an iceberg. It's all under water so we can't see it," Buchanan said. "When people realize they have been scammed, they are too embarrassed or ashamed to report it."

Buchanan said authorities in Houston began hearing about Nigerian scams in the early 1990s. But around the world, authorities believe these scams have been going on since the 1980s. Other nationalities run the same type of cons, but not on the level of the Nigerians, he said.

About a quarter of major fraud cases investigated by the Secret Service nationwide involve Nigerians, the Secret Service says.

Nigeria is a perfect haven for the scam artists, Buchanan said.

The country has been mired in poverty and corruption after 30 years of looting by military regimes, according to widely published accounts.

They target Houston not only because it is a port of entry, but because of the city's connection to the oil industry. Oil is Nigeria's No. 1 industry, and con artists use oil as a lure in some way. For example, they'll say the government paid for oil it never got, so a pot of money is available to split.

Victims receive unsolicited letters or electronic mail promising them a stake in a get-rich scheme. The only catch is that they have to pay a fee in advance.

Greed overcomes the victim's common sense.

The letters often contain official-looking Nigerian government seals or bank letterheads.

The scams usually involve claims of "over-invoiced" or "double-invoiced" goods or services, meaning there supposedly is a stash of money somewhere that was paid by some company for goods or services that were never delivered. But "fees" need to be paid up front before the money can be accessed.

If the victim pays the advance fee, often "complications" arise which require more payments.

Another typical scam is a letter stating that the sender is seeking a reputable individual in the United States. The letter says the sender needs a bank account into which he can deposit millions of dollars that the Nigerian government supposedly overpaid on some procurement contract.

The scammers usually hold themselves out to be senior Nigerian government officials in some ministry, typically an agency called the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The recipients of the letters are told they will receive a commission for the service. Later, the victims are told that the deal is in jeopardy and an up-front payment is needed to save it.

Perhaps a bribe is supposedly needed to pay off a government official to release the money. Or maybe an unforeseen tax or fee has to be paid before the money can be transferred.

The victims are told that the fee is the last one required. But invariably,"oversights" or "errors" crop up requiring more payments.

In almost every case, the scammers convey a sense of urgency.

Since 1999, Buchanan has been involved in 20 scam investigations involving Nigerians. Six of them, including the Okiti case, have resulted in successful prosecutions. The remainder involved sting operations in which the target never showed up.

But Buchanan says hundreds, if not thousands, of Houstonians are probably getting these e-mails on a daily basis.

"We're getting the word out not to respond to them. These are scams, and they need to be reported," Buchanan said. "But the best advice is that old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it is."
-- Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle, August 26, 2001

$23 Billion "419" Swindle

A Brazilian biz man is duped of N23 billion by a group of Nigerian conmen. It is the biggest money scam ever.

Nelson Sakaguchi, Brazilian and a director in Banco Noereste Brazil, will forever curse that day in 1994 when he was introduced to a group of Nigerians by a man who claimed to be his friend, Dr. Hakim Ukeh, an Enugu businessman. Sakaguchi who was on a business trip to Nigeria was introduced to three Nigerians, two of whom supposedly controlled Nigeria's Central Bank.

They were Chief Paul Ogwuma, the bank's governor; Alhaji Mahey Rafindadi Rasheed, the deputy governor, in charge of foreign operations. The third character was cast that night as Mrs. Agbakoba. She was not for real. Inreal life, her name was Amaka Anajemba, the real wife of character Rafindadi Rasheed. The entire cast, except Sakaguchi and Ukeh were impostors.

Amaka's husband, Ikechukwu Anajemba had posed as Rasheed, while Chief Emmanuel Nwude-Odinigwe, now a director of Union Bank, posed as Paul Ogwuma.

The characters had rehearsed their script well enough, ahead of this encounter. Only Sakaguchi played real, plain, innocent. He came all the way from Brazil to explore business prospects in Nigeria. But the guys who came to meet with him had other business ideas. It was an investment scheme in which Sakaguchi would pour a lot of dollars, millions of it, all down the drain, reaping nothing but sorrow and tears. The nature of the business they would do together would be unfolded later. That night's meeting was merely exploratory, to size up, and even psyche up their potential prey.

The Brazilian believed the theatrics of his guests. He did not know they were merely imitating the real characters. He didn't know that these three men and a woman would soon throw him into a deep financial abyss. By the time he woke up to his senses, four years after, he had lost $181.6 million, about N23 billion. He lost his job too as a director of Bank Noroeste in Sao Paulo. He was declared wanted by the police after the auditors, Price Waterhouse found that $181.6 million had disappeared from the coffers of the bank that is Latin America's 46th largest, according to a 1996 ranking of banks in that region.

All the money paid at various times between 1995 and 1997 were parceled into various bank accounts in Switzerland, China, United States , England and Nigeria. All the monies were all destined to three beneficiaries in Nigeria and their host of phantom companies and fronts.

As far as 419 operations go, the swindle carried out against the Brazilian was the biggest in the history of 419 heists. At $181 million, the amount was too staggering to comprehend. At N23 billion, in the hands of a few Nigerians, it is enough to bankroll a guerrilla war against any democratic government.

How the Anajembas and Nwude Odinigwe carried out the record swindle followed the same pattern of advance fee fraud operation. Except that this time, the operation was easier. They knew their prey inside out.

They knew which button to press to make him disgorge mouth watering dollars.

For a start, they sent a fax about a phantom contract won by Sakaguchi in Nigeria. This was in 1995. Of course to facilitate the contract, Sakaguchibegan to send money to designated accounts controlled by the Anajemba and Odinigwe gang. When the phantom job was said to have been completed and payment was not forthcoming, the fraudsters devised another method to milk Sakaguchi further. Enter the phantom contract review panel . On the Central Bank of Nigeria's letter head, the fake panel wrote to Sakaguchi, informing him of its decision to pay all foreign contractors, including himself all outstanding debts.

According to the letter, Sakaguchi was said to have had a contract worth$187 million with the Ministry of Aviation. The job having been done and money not paid on time, the phantom review panel recommended that Sakaguchibe paid his money, with interest. The amount to be paid now stood at $200.8million!

But to facilitate this, Sakaguchi, recommended the contract panel, must forward "fluctuational charges" of $6.7 million. That money was deposited in the foreign banks recommended by the gang. Then all other demands followed: money to bribe "His Excellency"; money to bribe the "minister" and other persons as concocted by the gang in Nigeria. Sakaguchi kept sending millions after millions of dollars, hoping that his pay day would come soonest. There was no pay day for Sakaguchi, till now, only sorrow-day.

The systematic looting of Sakaguchi reached a climax with the said letter by the so-called review panel. The unsigned letter that was written on a forged CBN letterhead and that sounded so illiterate read: "It has been brought toour notice that a contract sum of $187,381,000 excluding an overriding interest accrued which is $13,470,070 which sums it up to $200,851.07, this includes the first, second and final phase respectively for contract number  (FMA/132/019/82) by Federal Ministry of Aviation, which was duly completed has not been paid for." Furthermore, the letter goes, "we confirmed that we irrevocably hold (on) to your $200,851,000 until we receive the fluctuational charges of $6,730,000, this payment schedule is to be made on or before 18 October 1996. As soon as we receive the above sum, we shall forward your fund simultaneously to the Chemical Bank of New York." On 16October same year, another letter was written to the Brazilian informing him that all necessary documentations have been duly perfected for the immediate release and transfer of his fund by telegraphic transfer to the designated accounts.

As the swindling continued, the Lagos gang kept concocting all kinds of obstacles to be overcome to get the so-called debt out of the CBN vaults. In an amusing letter sent by a phantom "Rasheed", the letter urged Sakaguchi to pay $1.75 million into the Dockland branch of Barclays Bank in London to bribe officials who would do "the second phase of indeginisation andcompletion certificate ", preparatory to making payment. The letter actually demanded $4.5 million, but asked Sakaguchi to pay an advance of $1.75million, and pay the rest after collecting the so-called acknowledged debt of $200 million. In the course of the operation, the phantom debt ballooned to $387 million, enough to make Sakaguchi go bananas if paid into his account.

Meanwhile, Sakaguchi got desperate to get the windfall from Lagos as his bankers began to raise queries about the uni-direction of the transactions. But he mollified them and still squeezed $4.2 million out of the bank, which he wired to his financial emasculators in Lagos, Nigeria. The money was sent on 6 August 1997, to Standard Finance Clearing House, New York, in care of his excellency, Paul Ogwuma, CBN governor. The letter entitled Re: Final Cable Charges Phase One, Two and Final On FMA 132/019/82, reads: "After avery tough and strong argument with senior bankers, they finally agreed to release an additional last portion of this $4,200,000. With conditions that you will be transferring immediately on 8 August 1997 by wire/swift the full amount of $374,682,000.15 only to the account at Chase Manhattan Bank, New York (former Chemical Bank New York) account number 544/7/07768 of Bank Noreste SA Kayman Island Branch in favour of Stanton Development Company. "The Lagos gang was unperturbed by Sakaguchi's desperation. Sakaguchi's desperation triggered another desperation of their own. They pestered him with demands for more money. A minister was the new obstacle to payment, not the people in charge of the "indigenisation and completion certificate". They therefore sent a letter to him on 1 October 1997 to ginger him into action. According to the letter, the fraudsters told their victim that any delay was dangerous, and they assumed that the fund would be released into their nominated accounts. They, therefore asked him to wire immediately to "EXCEL" account the sum of $5 million as agreed with the minister. The letter concluded that it was confidential.

Poor Sakaguchi. Like a zombie in the hands of voodoo priests, the Lagos letter spurred him into action. He mobilized all the money in his bank (Banco Noroeste) and his company, Stanton Development Corporation, desperately to meet the targets of his 'business partners.' He informed the chairman of his company who is also his father in-law. They went cap in hand borrowing money from different sources. The money was remitted to designated accounts to facilitate the 'business.' The whole operation was of course spurious. There was no dime coming from Lagos. And none came. Sakaguchi had been an unsuspecting sucker!

He had lost $181 million. When he started calling Lagos for the money, the Lagos gang sent him a letter, reeking with wicked humour. The letter dated19 February 2001 and set on a Paul Ogwuma and Associates letterhead announced to Sakaguchi.

"I regret to inform you that I have already paid the sum of $250 million to the bank of Noroute, which was collected on July 1998". There is no bank of Noroute anywhere in the world. The letter was signed by chairman Paul Ogwuma and a lawyer, John Nemota and a Jose Lavana of the Brazilian embassy in Lagos. All the names of course were fictitious.

The huge sums of money stolen from Sakaguchi were got by installments. The first installment of $1.2 million was paid into an account in Crystal Bank of Africa on 9 August 1995 with O.E. Odinigwe, who represented Stanton, as beneficiary. On 25 August 1995, $1.5 million was paid to Commercial Trust Bank with Fyn Baz Nigeria Ltd as beneficiary, 31 August 1995, $500,000 into Nwude Christian Kachi as beneficiary. On 27 September 1995 the sum of $2.55million was paid to UWS Landmark as beneficiary; 8 December 1995, the sum of$2 million was paid into an account of Gulf Bank of Nigeria with Fynbaz as beneficiary.

Others are Nigeria Intercontinental Merchant Bank in which $2 million was paid on the 12 of February 1996.

$1.3 million was paid into the account of Stanton Development Corporation On1 January 1996 and 28 October 1997, $4.75 million was paid to Pentagon Co.

Ltd. and $1.35 million was paid through an account in Nigeria Intercontinental Merchant Bank Ltd., to Emrus Nigeria Limited.

When Sakaguchi finally came to his senses that he had been a victim of a monumental fraud, he nearly went berserk. First of all, his employers sacked him. Then they dragged him to court, asking him to repay all the money he had wired to the Lagos gang. Then he became a fugitive running away from justice.

For him, it was time to be desperate again and to hope that he would recover the money. Not knowing where to begin, he contacted his "friend" in Nigeria, Dr. Kim Ukeh, the Enugu based businessman who had introduced the phantom Rasheed and Paul Ogwuma and the phantom Mrs. Agbakoba to Sakaguchi in 1994.

Whether Dr. Ukeh was part of the swindling is not very clear. But close sources to the gang told The NEWS that Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe gave him N200million, out of the proceeds that ran into N23 billion. When we called Dr.Ukeh last week, he was not available in Enugu. We also called his mobile phone. He was also not reachable.

But significantly, Ukeh has turned the recovery agent for Sakaguchi, who in a letter last August pleaded with Ukeh to help him recover his "robbed money from Paul Ogwuma" and send to his account at Chase Manhattan in New York.

Ukeh, in difference to his smitten friend has petitioned the Inspector General of Police on the matter. He has informed the Fraud Squad at Milverton Road, Ikoyi. And the squad is said to be disinterested in the matter, which should be their big concern. He has taken Emmanuel NwudeOdinigwe to the Arochukwu shrine in Igbo heartland. He has reported him to the elders. And sources said he is contemplating a legal action.

Ukeh of course knew he is walking a mine field and he could get bombed along the way. He has already had a foretaste of the dangers that confront him in his bid to square up with the con men, his former pals, who swindled the Brazilian, so mercilessly and so callously.

Last October , the police in Enugu framed what is believed to be a concocted charge of firearms possession against Ukeh. The case is still pending at amagistrate court in Enugu. And Ukeh now goes about watching his shoulders. He has real reasons to fear.

A friend of his, Ikechukwu Anajemba with whom he introduced Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe to Sakaguchi, along with Amaka in 1994, was mysteriously killed last year.

His death came after the scam had been completed and the mind-blowing megabucks raked in. Death by robbery was what was reported about Ikechukwu, but it is believed that he was murdered.

Sakaguchi himself is going through hard times. At present, he is a fugitive. Unable to bear the psychological trauma and prosecution, he has left Brazil for Africa.. A source revealed to this magazine that the former director of Banco Noereste wanted to come to Nigeria to claim his money, but he was afraid that he might be assassinated.

Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe is not going through any hassle. He is still celebrating his triumphant execution of the unprecedented 419 scam. He lives big on Victoria Island, Lagos. He junkets around the world. He sits on the board of Nigeria's leading bank since 1999. He has acquired a string of assets in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and Onitsha. He chairs a host of companies. He is the wonder boy of the nouveau riche in Nigeria, stupendously rich.

Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe came from the blues in September 1998 and bought shares that were worth $1.2 million from Union Bank. His shares total 4.1million, making him the largest shareholder in the bank. In Abagana, he produces Lamour Water. He is a socialite, who on the surface looks like a gentleman, but possessing the sting of a bee. He also bought shares in more than 20 companies both locally and internationally, within five years.

Ikechukwu Anajemba, before he was killed also lived big. He had about 28houses scattered in special areas in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu. But he has left everything to his surviving wife, Amaka, a.k.a Mrs.

The stung Brazilian requires help for the recovery of $181 million plus the accrued compound interests of $70 million. Whether he can get the money from the Nigerian crooks will be an acid test of Nigeria's avowed war against the419ners, giving our nation bad name internationally.

Last week, when we spoke with Nwude Odinigwe on his role in this monumental fraud, he pestered us to enter a deal with him to kill the story. When we persisted that he must speak on his role, he offered a taciturn response: "I am not in the mood to talk now. All I can say is that the person that can speak about the matter is dead", a reference to his partner who died in circumstances very mysterious.

The NEWS also spoke with Sakaguchi where he was holed in Africa. He said he would only talk after getting clarifications from his contacts in Nigeria. He promised to get back to us. He never did.   
-- Bamidele Adebayo, Lagos - The News,
October 9 2001

Nigeria, U.S, others adopt anti-scam strategy 

NIGERIA, with the assistance of some European nations and the United States (U.S), is putting in place a more sophisticated, almost fool-proof of method checking the activities of fraudsters who this year alone, milked their foreign victims an estimated $500 million (about N50 billion). 

Already, no fewer than 200 businesses including investment houses are under the lenses of security agents whose investigations are now boosted by foreign experts among whom are U.S. Secret Service Personnel and men of the Internal Revenue Department. 

Recently, at the Louis Edet Building Police Headquarters in Abuja, the preliminary report of advance fee fraud investigators metamorphosed into a National Committee on Advance Fee Fraud (NCAFF) inaugurated by President Olusegun Obasanjo to formulate the more effective strategy against fraud perpetrators and their cohorts in Nigeria. 

Haz Iwendi, spokesman of the Nigeria Police told The Guardian that alarming reports of continuing activities of fraudsters in the country despite government efforts to check them led the Presidency to set up the national committee. 

"This committee shall analyse reports from field agents, and make recommendations to governments," Iwendi, an assistant police commissioner, said. 

The committee is among a few of such similar think-tanks to comprise members of the diplomatic community such as the U.S, Britain, France and Spain whose citizens are more vulnerable to the antics of fraudsters. 

Iwendi declined to give an insight into the much taunted method security operatives now use to thwart fraud. 

"I can only tell you that we have devised an early warning system to alert mugus(vulnerable people) and steer them away from paying to a criminal," 

The Guardian, however, learnt that the police early warning system is internet-based and enhanced with state-of-the-art equipment capable of intercepting especially outbox information from a target personality or audience. 

A U.S. secret service agent who asked not to be named explained that whereas it is known that some marked out fraudsters of Nigerian origin operate from bases outside Nigeria, it is also true much of their funds are channelled back through certain investment houses. 

Asked if a concerted effort against investment houses such as banks would not be against the interest of Nigeria, the agent said possible foreign investors are being scared away by continuing scam so that Nigeria stands to gain on the long run if business are properly done. 

The amount allegedly lost to fraudsters this year is a total estimate of monies allegedly sent to bogus business associates in Nigeria by Europeans who later complained to their home countries. 

It is said that the purported $500 million may have been grossly exaggerated considering that some of the supposed victims may have borrowed money with particularly high interest hoping to pay off their soon as the expected amounts usually in hundreds of millions of dollars is cleared through the Nigerian banking system.
-- By Ben Akparanta: Amebo, December 20 2001

Nigerian Jailed in UK for Fraud

A 23-year-old Nigerian, Victor Marquis has been sentenced to three-years and nine months for committing a one-million pound fraud in Britain. Described as an illegal immigrant who came o the U.K. in 1995, Marquis used his computer skills to commit the ``sophisticated attacks'' on the British economy, according to the Evening Standard.

Marquis set up 90 fake accounts with forged passports, stolen birth certificates and false names and addresses to perpetrate the crime.

``He stole more than one million pounds from banks by coning other people's identities'', the paper reported, adding that he used the money to fund his expensive lifestyle. It further stated that the culprit even used the name of Stephen Lawrence, a murdered black teenager for one account before going on a shopping spree to New York with his wife, Kajal Jathani.

Maquis also went on holiday to Germany, Greece and other cities in America, spending his loot on Armani suits and Vintage Champaign, among other things.

His purchase of a 30,000 pounds sports car however, led to his down fall as he was caught by the police for speeding and drink-driving, and investigations led to the exposition of the fraud. Marquis, of Plaistow, was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court, north London, while his wife was fined 4,000 pounds for her part in the fraud.    --- December 19 2001

CSS Exposes African Letter Scams

London, 12 July 2002 - The ICC's crime-fighting bureau is warning all internet users to beware e-mails requesting help to secretly transfer tens of millions of dollars out of Africa, even if the senders claim to be government officials or former heads of state. 

The alert was sparked by a new online spin to an existing fraud, named the "419 scams" after a section in the Nigerian Penal Code.

Fraudulent e-mails typically request the recipient's bank account details so that a large sum of money can be transferred briefly to their account. Recipients are told they will receive up to 25% of the remittance in return for the service, but are warned that confidentiality is vital.

But ICC's Commercial Crime Services (CCS) say the request is likely to be the first move in an illegal scam whose victims risk violence, kidnappings and the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. 

"Do not reply to any of these messages," warned CCS Director Pottengal Mukundan. "The senders do not really have any money to transfer out, and even if they did, if you agree to participate in the scheme, you could be breaking the law in your country and in the country where the letter originated.

"In essence, this is an invitation to participate in a conspiracy to defraud the central bank in the sender's country," he said.

According to CCS, "419" letters were originally sent from Nigeria by individuals posing as official representatives of Nigerian institutions such as the Central Bank and the National Nigerian Petroleum Corporation - using forged postage stamps in many cases. 

Today, e-mail has multiplied the problem by making it easy and cheap to send thousands of messages in one click.

Recent messages purport to come from around Africa, usually from countries with civil disturbances. Examples include Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Angola and Zimbabwe.

A typical message may read as follows: "I request you to assist my family by helping us secure this deposit with a financial institution in Europe…For your efforts we will discuss what remuneration I will give you when you reply…Do notforget to include your telephone and fax numbers in your reply."

Captain Mukundan said: "The people sending these emails are only trying to get their hands on people's signature and bank account details. Once they have this information, they could access your account, or refer to it in further frauds."

Captain Mukundan said a surprising number of people are duped, with victims including estate agents, lawyers, accountants, travel agents, doctors, teachers and owners of small businesses.

CCS have found most cases to be advance fee frauds. A recent example involved a US professional who was conned into flying across the Atlantic three times to meet the Nigerian fraudsters who had offered him three million dollars in return for the use of his bank account as a temporary holding for their money.

On each of the three occasions, the American was asked to advance money needed to complete transfer procedures, which he duly paid. By the time he realised he was dealing with thieves, he was more than US$ 100 000 out of pocket.

Captain Mukundan said other cases involve extortion. "Once the victim responds to the initial message, the fraudsters will propose a meeting with a central banker in the country concerned," he said. 

"Having paid for his flight to Africa for a meeting of this kind, one man was detained by people claiming to be officials until he paid a sum of US$ 40 000 for his release." 

CCS records show other victims of this scam have been physically assaulted or threatened with violence. ICC's advice to those who receive any suspicious e-mails is to delete them.

"The moment you reply, you are giving away personal information which could be used in further frauds." said Captain Mukundan.

Based in London, CCS is made up of three specialized bureaux and a cybercrime unit, which together cover all aspects of commercial crime. All provide up-to-the-minute advice on criminal methods and how to counter them. If you are uncertain about any message, CCS invite you to forward it to them to be checked.



Not much. We don't want to sound fatalistic, but the reality is that the scam artists hide behind untraceable email addresses, sending their scam letters from pay-by-the-hour Internet Cafes. The governments of Africa are generally in a survival mode, with little interest in dealing with some Internet scam artist in a local village. There are always bigger fish to fry. 

Plus we have actually talked with West African government and business officials about their perception of these 419 scams. They have expressed amazement that anyone could be fooled by the  empty promises contained in unsolicited emails from a stranger in Africa. In their eyes, the culpability goes both ways. "Who could be such a fool to give money to someone they have never met?" This is a valid question for all of us to ponder...

What we have done at The Freeman Institute is to provide a free service to warn individuals who may be flirting with the idea of great wealth coming their way. Our motto is: Run, don't walk, away from these scams and then do what you can to warn people about this pervasive problem. Feel free to provide a link to -- so that more people can see the truth about these 419 scams.


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For hard numbers, the Australian Institute of Criminology article and the US Dept. of State pub. 10465 will prepare you better than this site will. Really good backgrounders. From these you will get an idea of the scope of this scam. There are already inter-governmental relationships established over this issue.


"Dealing  With  People  Who  Drive  You  Crazy!"®
The Freeman Institute™ Box 305, Gambrills, Maryland 21054
TEL 410-729-7800


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