Hawks, Interpol arrest 2 men in Pretoria for online romance scam, will seek extradition to US

The Hawks and Interpol have bust an online fraud ring in SA.
The Hawks and Interpol have bust an online fraud ring in SA.
PHOTO: Supplied by Hawks
  • Two alleged online scammers were arrested in Pretoria.
  • They are thought to have been part of a syndicate carrying out internet scams.
  • The operation, which was carried out by the Hawks and Interpol, also saw laptops and cash confiscated.

The Hawks and Interpol have arrested two foreign nationals in Pretoria for allegedly being part of an online scam syndicate. They are expected to seek the extradition of the two men to the US.

The men, aged 39 and 42, were believed to be members of the "Air Lords" syndicate group, a rival of the "Black Axe" internet romance scammers.

During the operation by the Hawks and Interpol, electronic equipment, including laptops and phones, thousands of rands in cash, and an unlicensed firearm were confiscated in Wapadrand and Sunnyside.

READ | Police investigating fraud after 70 KZN businesses targeted in government tender scam

The extradition hearing of eight alleged Black Axe scammers is currently being heard in the Western Cape High Court. The US Department of Justice wants them to be extradited to face trial in that country.

The group was arrested in Parklands, Cape Town in October 2021, in a high-profile sting operation that included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The group is alleged to have scammed people in the US via the internet. They are accused of taking on aliases, starting up romances and eventually asking their victims for a financial bailout.

Wads of cash seized in sting operation
Cash was seized and two people were arrested when the Hawks and Interpol pounced on an alleged online scam syndicate in Pretoria.

The Black Axe group is apparently a global network, and the arrests in South Africa are understood to have netted some senior members.

The two people arrested in Pretoria recently will likely be linked to similar online scams, said Hawks spokesperson, Colonel Katlego Mogale.

Mogale said:

The suspects will be charged, detained and extradited [to the US] by Interpol.

"This [operation] is but one of several simultaneous happening currently in other countries, tracing the suspects involved in online scams such as romance, investments, Bitcoin, employment and all related advance fee fraud."

The suspects will appear in court soon on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and money laundering relating to the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. One of the suspects will also face a charge of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

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