A group of Nigerian 419 scammers can kiss the R1 million in their South African bank account goodbye, after the High Court in Pretoria declared the money forfeited to the state.
Acting Judge Nante Diedericks granted an order to the national director of public prosecutions declaring the over R1.09 million in the Nedbank account of Thulisile Petunia Masilela and the company Agape Hope Logistics forfeited as the proceeds of unlawful activities.
The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) was authorised to transfer the money into the Criminal Asset Recovery Account.
Sarb investigator Petrus Delport said in court papers Nedbank had in October 2017 reported suspicious transactions on Masilela’s account and Sarb froze the account. Masilela then unsuccessfully applied for a court order to unfreeze it.
Investigations revealed that an American woman, Emma Bancgo, had tried to transfer $100 000 (R1.3 million) as “family support” into Agape’s account on the day it was opened.
When that failed, she tried to transfer the money as “business maintenance” and over R1.3 million went into Agape’s account the next day.
Masilela withdrew R250 600 in cash the same day and instructed the bank to transfer R800 000 to the account of Kehinde Lawal, a Nigerian citizen, who had been linked to other transactions previously investigated by Nedbank.
When the bank’s investigator contacted Masilela, she claimed Bancgo was her business partner in South Africa and that she had met her here. But Bancgo said she had no business interests in SA and had never been there.
When the investigator asked her to describe the nature of her payment to Agape, she insisted she did not know what the transaction was about and ended the call.
Sarb’s investigations revealed that Lawal was also subject to another investigation involving an account into which over R11.7 million was paid from overseas, then immediately transferred to Lawal and a company owned by another Nigerian.
Delport said indications were that those involved were operating as an advance fee fraud syndicate.