Instead, they are being taken for millions by the
Nigerian kingpins of the 419 scam, who live the high life in
upmarket suburbs of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
This week alone, the 419 scam section of the Gauteng Commercial
Crimes unit dealt with eight desperate foreigners who had come to
Johannesburg to hand over thousands of dollars.
Superintendent Johnny Smith, head of the only 419 scam unit in South
Africa, said there were five kingpins running the fraud network in
The flashy Odonoko and his wife, Mmabatho Mokoena, will apply for
bail tomorrow in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court, north of
Johannesburg. The couple and four others stand accused of defrauding
a Benoni woman and her five British friends out of R840 000.
Police are investigating another case in which it is alleged that
over R6-million was extorted from Rxxxxxx Hxxxxxxx, a US citizen.
Odonoko had his home and its contents seized by the Asset Forfeiture
Unit late last year. The unit confiscated a Sunninghill townhouse
and possessions, including a metallic grey Audi TT Roadster for
Odonoko paid R321 000 in five cash installments over a month.
Raylene Keightly, the deputy director of the asset forfeiture unit,
said the last payment of R47 000 was made in US dollars.
She said the couple traveled regularly between the US, Britain,
Nigeria and South Africa, and receipts in the unit's possession
showed they shopped for clothes in boutiques on London's elegant
SAPS Sergeant Matthews Mabungwa said the unit also confiscated a R31
000 wide-screen TV, a R22 000 hi-fi and a yellow Audi A3, which they
later discovered was stolen.
Odonoko is now being held at Diepkloof Prison south of Johannesburg,
but his wife was set free on a warning until tomorrow's court
appearance. When she appeared in court on Wednesday, she was wearing
expensive beige leather trousers, a burgundy leather bunny jacket
and a pair of imported shoes.
Edward Venning, of the British National Criminal Intelligence
Service, said his organisation works with police across Africa on
"this enormous issue".
"We think up to £150-million (about R2.4-billion) a year
disappears from the UK," he said
Smith said the Nigerian-led syndicates had turned SA into the 419
scam capital of the world. "We have the best technology in
Africa. We are also seen as the super power on the continent so
criminals from Ghana,
Nigeria, Congo, and Ivory Coast are using SA."
The 419 scamsters pay hotel employees and security guards to help
them take their victims for a ride. Syndicate members will book
victims into hotels in which they have contacts. They also use
guards at empty
Cops impeded in their efforts
From one of the filthiest, most derelict buildings
in central Johannesburg, the eight men and women from the police's
419 scam unit fight one of the biggest cons to hit South Africa.
Commanded by Superintendent Johnny Smith, the unit is the only one
of its kind in the country.
They have no computers - but are expected to catch the conmen who
lure all their victims through the Internet.
The unit was formed five years ago after it became clear that the
419 scam was taking hold.
They have arrested hundreds of fraudsters, but find it difficult to
convict them as their foreign victims, the only witnesses, are
either too embarrassed or too frightened to return to SA and
Or they have run out of money and the state cannot afford the cost
of the plane tickets to bring them back.
-- by Nicki Padayachee, courtesy of the Sunday
Times of South Africa
------- WHAT CAN BE DONE
ABOUT THESE SCAM ARTISTS? -------
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 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 www.freemaninstitute.com/419.htm
-- so that more people can see the truth about these 419 scams.