Norwegian millionaire Kjetil Moe, 65, who disappeared from his hotel room during a business trip to Johannesburg in September, is believed to be the fifth victim of the Nigerian "4-1-9" scam.
The "4-1-9" operation, named after a section of the Nigerian penal code, involves the international circulation-by-fax of an appeal to businessmen requesting help to transfer over-budgeted money.
Detectives from the Johannesburg Commercial Crime Unit who have been investigating the case have reason to believe that Moe met Nigerian members of a syndicate operating from Hillbrow. It is also suspected that he was kidnapped from his hotel and murdered, although his body has not been found.
Moe arrived in Johannesburg on September 24 and was due to leave four days later. He was last seen eating breakfast at the City Lodge hotel in Edenvale on September 26, hours before he failed to show up for a business appointment in Brits.
Moe's business colleagues contacted the police to inform them of his disappearance. It was soon realised that Moe was the fifth international businessman to have fallen for the 4-1-9 scam in South Africa.
"Documents and letters found in the hotel room indicate he was involved in the scam. His personal belongings, cellphone and money were left behind and it was also found that he had placed numerous calls to a West African man operating from Hillbrow," said Superintendent Chris Wilken, police spokesperson for Johannesburg.
Aud Wiig, of the Norwegian embassy, said she had been in contact with Moe's wife and children soon after he went missing and that an all-out effort had been made to publicise Moe's disappearance.
"But very little information has come from the public," she said, adding that Norwegian police were working with South African police through Interpol.
Four international businessmen, one of whom was murdered, were lured into South Africa earlier this year by criminals using a Nigerian advance-fee fraud scam. They were kidnapped and huge ransoms were demanded from their families.
A top-level team of detectives, headed by members of the National Special Investigations Unit, was set up in May to probe the kidnappings, but while numerous arrests have been made, it is believed the syndicate is still operational.
Special investigations head Director Bushie Engelbrecht said the task team investigating the cases was made up of specially trained investigators.
Police have warned business people not to fall for the scam.
Anyone with information is requested to call Superintendent Laurence van der Westhuizen on 082-809-5574 or Crime Stop on 0800-11-12-13.