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Pretoria - A mother, 23, accused of being part of an international cybercrime syndicate, has been denied having her 2-month-old baby incarcerated with her at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre.

The South African woman and her nine co-accused from Nigeria were arrested in Sunnyside last week. They appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The father of the baby was also arrested and is believed to be the syndicate’s kingpin.

The woman’s lawyer, Melissa Theron, said the baby – being cared for by the accused’s sister – could not get used to drinking formula and had to be breast-fed.

Theron asked that the child be allowed to stay with its mother in jail and that her bail application be heard sooner than that of her co-accused. The matter stood down and the baby will remain in the care of a family member until all 10 accused apply for bail on June 12. The mother will be allowed to pump breast milk for the child.

The multimillion-dollar cybercrime syndicate was bust by the Hawks and their US counterparts and led to the arrest of 24 people in three countries. US Homeland Security claimed the crime ring was behind numerous complex financial fraud schemes. These included internet dating, reshipping scams, work-at-home scams and other financial and credit card fraud. It is expected the group will be extradited to the US to be prosecuted.

Police said last week that more Nigerians had been arrested in Canada, Indianapolis and Atlanta. Seven Americans had been arrested in New York, Georgia and Indiana.

Homeland Security investigations initiated the probe in 2011 after a woman was scammed on an online dating website. She received a package – bought using stolen personal information and fraudulent credit card information – from her suitor and was asked to reship it to Pretoria. Once the shipped packages arrived in the city, the suspects advertised them on the internet for sale.

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