Cape Town - An international scam in which women across the globe are defrauded by men they befriend on internet dating sites appears to have its roots in Cape Town, with papers filed at the Western Cape High Court suggesting more than R5 million has been lost.
The suspected syndicate of scamsters is under investigation for fraud and money laundering after a US woman raised the alarm.
According to papers filed at the High Court here, suggestions are that the syndicate has operated since 2011 – and that more than R5m has been deposited into five Absa Bank accounts linked to it by women worldwide.
This week the five bank accounts, including one in the name of a Nigerian man believed to be a key figure in the suspected syndicate, were frozen after the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained a preservation order in the High Court.
According to the papers filed in the AFU application, the investigation started in September 2012 when Absa’s forensic investigation department reported that it had received information from JP Morgan Chase Bank in Joburg that one of the bank’s US clients, Kristine Webster, had requested an investigation into suspected fraud.
Absa contacted Webster directly, who explained what had happened. She said she met a man on the dating site match.com, who claimed he was originally from the UK, now working in the US.
He identified himself as Art Donegal Ballinamore, and the pair communicated via e-mail.
Ballinamore also gave her his cellphone number.
He claimed he was a civil engineer and told her he would be travelling to South Africa for work.
His daughter Blessing would travel with him.
On July 28, 2012, Ballinamore sent her an e-mail to say: “I feel quite bad right now. Blessing forgot the bag where we had our phones in, my wristwatch, my iPad and her laptop, and her game at the airport that she needs to keep herself busy while I am working (sic).”
He provided her with a South African cellphone number and later asked her to send him a Blackberry 9930 via FedEx to an address in West Beach.
She sent him the cellphone days later.
Three days after she sent him the cellphone, he sent her a message to say he had a problem with “revenue officers” and wasn’t able to access his UK bank account.
He asked her to send $48 000 (R511 000) to an Absa bank account in the name of Okil Management, and promised to repay her within 14 days.
She sent him the money but became suspicious and hired a private investigator.
The private investigator’s efforts revealed that Art Ballinamore did not exist.
In an affidavit before the court, AFU investigator Ricardo Rhoda said it was established that Okil Management was a company registered in South Africa with an address in Table View.
Okil’s bank statement revealed several transfers from foreign countries.
Transfers were also made from Okil’s bank account to accounts held in the names of Glory Restoration Assembly International Church, a Nigerian man identified as Innocent Aleokhai Abinokhauno, and close corporation Brighten Ven Trading with a registered address in Parklands.
It was established that forex transactions to the tune of R5.23m were made into Okil’s account between September 2011 and June 2012. - Weekend Argus