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Beware of the Black Axe syndicate’s 419 scam as victims are forced to part with millions of rands

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Published Aug 6, 2022

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Johannesburg - There’s a new syndicate which is scamming vulnerable South Africans out of millions. A company which fights cyber fraud is sounding the alarm about Black Axe, which runs romance and 419 scams from Johannesburg to Cape Town and anywhere in between.

Fight Against Cyber Romance Crimes owner, founder and director, Zelda Myburgh said they are currently dealing with 80 cases where people were scammed from R14 million to R1.2 million in a matter of months.

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The company’s research found that the group originated in Nigeria and was, at one stage, involved in a turf war with the Italian Mafia when they branched out to Italy.

“The cases we deal with are just the ones reported to us. Never before has cybercrime been such a huge issue in SA. But there is hope. We are seeing more cases before our courts, and I believe we will have higher success rates for the victims,” said Myburgh.

Black Axe is believed to be very active in Kempton Park and Smit Street in the JHB CBD, as well as in Parklands, Table View and Somerset West in the Western Cape.

“They are established in every province and major cities and are now moving into smaller rural areas. They are so crafty. Many of our clients are older women,” she said.

Myburgh added that some of the arrests that have taken place in SA are from cases which originated in the USA and believes that up to 100 000 Americans have fallen prey to the syndicate, which operates from SA.

“Recently, eight Nigerians were arrested as a result of cooperation between our authorities and US authorities. They don’t go for anything less than R500 000. Anything from fake IDs to fake driver’s licences. These guys operate like a cult with leaders at various levels. Sadly, there are South Africans within their ranks,” she said.

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At the time of the eight arrests, the Hawks said the foreign nationals, aged between 33 and 52, were arrested for Internet scams, money laundering and international-wide scale financial fraud in Cape Town in a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United State Secret Service (USSS) Investigations, Interpol and with assistance from the Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation unit, Crime Intelligence(CI), K9, National Intervention Unit, Special Task Force (STF), Tactical Operations Management Section (TOMS), Criminal Record Centre and Cape Town Metro police.

A recent collaboration between the lead investigator at Royal Investigations, John Alexander and Stellenbosch SAPS resulted in the arrest of a Nigerian national relating to money laundering and fraud charges. The 30-year-old suspect, Roland Enuwese Esosa, is believed to be a high-ranking member of the Black Axe syndicate.

Alexander said Royal Investigations were assigned to investigate a romance scam case amounting to R2 million.

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“This elderly woman connected with who she thought was an American engineer on Tinder by the name of Larry Cole. Once the suspect developed a relationship, he concocted a soppy story about why he needed money. The victim parted with R2 million in six months. Our investigation led us to Northgate Mall in Roodepoort, where we arrested Esosa,” he said.

Esosa was the subject of a two-week intelligence-driven operation which ultimately led to his arrest.

“The Stellenbosch Detectives played a pivotal role, especially Captain Bernard Adams and Sergeant Allister Marajh. Immediately after the suspect was arrested, he attempted to bribe the arresting officers with R500 000 for his release. We found a BMW key in his possession, which led us to an expensive sports vehicle in the parking area. The suspect then offered this vehicle to the officials to secure his release. Unfortunately for him, we still have honourable police officials who cannot be bribed. The suspect failed to provide a reasonable explanation as to how he acquired this expensive vehicle. A decision was taken to seize the vehicle, subject to further investigation,” said Alexander.

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Esosa has since appeared in the Randburg Magistrate Court and was transported to Stellenbosch. His bail application is expected to continue on Monday.

It’s believed Esosa is part of an organised crime group targeting vulnerable women who are simply looking for companionship. Alexander, who has been at the forefront of several romance scam investigations, said members of the syndicate live lavish lifestyles off the proceeds of crime.

“The notorious criminal organisation called ‘Black Axe, also known as the Neo Black Movement of Africa, has a stronghold in Johannesburg,” he said.

A second suspected member of the syndicate, James Aliyu, was arrested at his luxury Sandton home after allegedly he duped people out of R12 million.

Neither the Hawks nor SAPS could confirm that they are investigating the Black Axe syndicate.

The Saturday Star

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