Two nabbed after insurance group extortion scam

2015-06-11 11:24

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Cape Town - An alleged multimillion rand extortion scheme targeting the holding company for some of South Africa's largest insurance brands, has sparked a major investigation which has already led to the arrest of two suspects.

The 49-year-old Ghanaian and a 38-year-old South African have been nabbed for allegedly trying to extort $1m from Telesure Investment Holdings in exchange for returning stolen personal information about some of its employees.

The men, whose identities are known to News24, were arrested between last week and on  Wednesday morning in an operation led by the Hawks' electronic crime unit (ECU). Police seized a false passport in the Ghanaian’s possession.

They are appearing in court this week.

Telesure owns and operates insurance brands including Auto & General, Budget, DialDirect and First for Women.

“Despite having robust, state-of-the-art information security systems in place, a rogue third party contractor fraudulently gained unauthorised access to Telesure Investment Holdings’ payroll system while working on site, and stole personal information relating to some of its employees,” the company and Hawks said in a joint statement.

Operation conducted over two weeks

An investigation by the ECU, Telesure, and PwC Forensics led to the arrests.

The operation was conducted over two weeks after the perpetrators allegedly tried to extort the vast sum of money "in exchange for returning the unlawfully obtained information".

The money had to be paid into a bank account in Hong Kong.

The investigators were able to uncover the suspects' true identities and officials conducted a search, seizure, and arrest operation at a number of premises, during which electronic evidence was seized.

“We were outraged by this extortion attempt, and did everything in our power to manage this situation with the relevant authorities,” said Tom Creamer, short-term insurance CEO of Telesure Investment Holdings.

“We would like to commend the Hawks who worked tirelessly on this case. Their swift action and professionalism was remarkable.”

ECU head Brigadier Piet Pieterse said data intrusion and obtaining sensitive information by accessing computer systems illegally was an extremely serious offence.

“The investigation revealed unique characteristics of transnational crime which was committed in an organised manner. These types of investigations are usually complicated in nature and often require specialised forensic investigative processes,” he said.

“The investigation is continuing and more arrests could follow.”

Read more on:    hawks  |  crime
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