Hawks & US law enforcement arrest Nigerian Mafia operating romance scams in Cape Town

Eight foreign nationals aged between 33 to 52 were arrested for Internet scams, money laundering, and international-wide scale financial fraud.

“All suspects were arrested during a large-scale operation in the early morning hours of today and will be charged with a variety of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire/mail fraud/mail and money laundering. The suspects in this investigation are alleged to have ties to a transnational organized crime syndicate originating in Nigeria.”

These suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees who were led to believe that they were in a genuine romantic relationship but were scammed out of their hard-earned money.

“The suspects used social media websites, online dating websites to find and connect with their victims.  Other modus operandi used by the suspects includes business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order to change banking details.  They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites.

“Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob stories about why they needed money – i.e., taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc. – and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts to the amount of 100 million rands.”

Mogale said the FBI estimates that more than 100 people lost more than 100 million rands in romance scams from 2011 to date.

The Black Axe members also scammed companies out of millions of rand using a business email compromise scam. 

The scams are sophisticated & have highly organised Nigerian syndicate members, operating from the Table View area posing as wealthy pensioners looking for love.

Law-enforcement says Black Axe has a strong presence in SA. Members often marry South Africans to get residency or citizenship, making it easier to access countries including Canada, the US, the UK and Germany.

The group also has a strong presence in Italy where authorities arrested several members this year. The group is alleged to work closely with the Camorra, one of the biggest Italian mafia groups, in other illicit activities including the drug trade and human trafficking.

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