Multi-million-rand tanzanite scam kingpin sought

2015-09-30 19:08
Scam Alert (Shutterstock)

Scam Alert (Shutterstock)

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Durban - Police and a private investigator are hard on the heels of a multi-million-rand tanzanite fraud syndicate – after the gang fleeced a Richards Bay businessman of R700 000.

The crime ring, which passes off coloured glass as uncut tanzanite gems, may be linked to a string of fraud cases stretching over 10 years.

The alleged kingpin of the syndicate, who is known only as "Katonga", is currently on the run.

PI Sean Peirce said one of his clients had fallen prey to the alleged fraudsters and was duped out of R700 000.

"My client's son drives a fancy BMW and two guys had approached him in Gateway and struck up conversation. On hearing his father [Pierce's client] owned an engineering company, they said they had exciting construction opportunities for him in Africa and that is how they got hooked," he said.

The PI added that mention of the gems came later, with a too-good-to-be-true deal that would return hundreds of thousands of rands.   

"He got handled; it was too good to be true. They are very good at what they do and they know how to manipulate the system," he said.

He described how the syndicate consisted of three to four people, and all had different roles.

"They get your attention and tell you they have these tanzanite stones. They take you to see a jeweller who 'tests' them and says they are legit and values them at a huge price above what they are paying."

"My client met the suspects at Gateway outside a hotel and handed over R700 000 in cash. That was at 7:00 and by 14:00 he couldn't reach any of these guys. They had disappeared and left him with lumps of what turned out to be coloured glass," Peirce added.   

"I have had another guy come to me from the South Coast who sells seafood and he was taken for over R200 000. They had brochures with price lists and everything and each person in the syndicate had their own role."

"I believe we have identified the kingpin and have had several people who have come forward, but they get nervous. This is without a shadow of a doubt a multi-million-rand fraud syndicate. Some people have bonded their houses and got caught by these guys.

Police spokespersons could not be contacted at the time of publishing.  

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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