Hawks, FBI partnership brings down eight 'romance' scammers in R100m international fraud case

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Eight people were arrested in a partnership between the Hawks, the FBI and Interpol, in connection with an international financial fraud case.
Eight people were arrested in a partnership between the Hawks, the FBI and Interpol, in connection with an international financial fraud case.
PHOTO: James C Hooper, Getty Images
  • Eight people have been arrested in connection with international "romance scams".
  • The scams have seen more than 100 people being duped out of around R100 million.
  • The suspects face charges ranging from money laundering to fraud.

Eight people have been arrested in connection with an international financial fraud case in a partnership between the Hawks, the FBI and Interpol.

The suspects have allegedly been linked to "romance scams" in which scores of women have been defrauded, said Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale.

More than 100 victims lost an estimated R100 million in the scams since 2011.

The eight foreign nationals, aged 33 to 52, were arrested in a large-scale operation on Tuesday morning and will be charged with a variety of financial crimes, said Mogale.

READ HERE | FNB loses court bid to recoup R2.9m from client who fell victim to internet scam

They were arrested for "internet scams, money laundering and international wide-scale financial fraud in Cape Town" during a joint operation by the FBI, United State Secret Service Investigations, Interpol and local law enforcement agencies, said Mogale, adding:

The operation was initiated based on the Mutual Legal Assistance from Central Authorities of the United States of America, that was approved by the Republic of South Africa. The suspects in this investigation are alleged to have ties with a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria.

They allegedly preyed on women – many of them widows or divorcees – by pretending to have a genuine romantic relationship with them.

"[The women] were scammed out of their hard-earned money. The suspects used social media websites [and] online dating websites to find and connect with their victims. Another modus operandi used by the suspects [was] business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order to change banking details. They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites," said Mogale.

READ | Rustenburg man arrested for allegedly running R1.5m investment scam

Once the suspects had developed a relationship with their victims, they "concocted sob stories about why they needed money" and "siphoned money from victims' accounts", Mogale said.

"The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared. We are confident that this investigation will have a significant impact on this region and beyond," Mogale added.

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