Last Updated on 22/11/2021 by Sanskriti
After a huge international operation involving the FBI and Interpol, eight Nigerian men charged with an internet dating fraud appeared in a South African court.
Authorities in the United States, where the inquiry began and where the majority of the alleged victims reside, have requested their extradition.
They are accused of scamming over 100 people out of over $7 million (£5 million) over the last decade.
They have not responded to the allegations.
According to police spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale, it is the largest such bust in South Africa. The suspects, aged 33 to 52, were apprehended in Cape Town on Tuesday after the US requested legal help.
The FBI and US Secret Service are said to have spearheaded the investigation and collaborated with South African officials, notably the Hawks, an elite police squad. The defendants are wanted in Texas and New Jersey on charges of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft, among other things.
Prosecutor Robin Lewis, in opposing bail, said the men are members of the Black Axe, a global organized criminal gang based in Nigeria that specializes in money laundering through numerous accounts.
The men were deemed a flight risk by the state since they still had access to the accounts that were allegedly utilized. If convicted, the defendants risk a sentence of 20 years in prison.
It is believed that the accused used fake identities to tarp their victims. Mostly the widows and divorces were targeted by making them believe that they are in a romantic genuine relationship. Col Mogale said once the suspects “had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob stories about why they needed money – ie taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then siphoned money from victims”.
“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives, and then disappeared,” she further said.