KUALA LUMPUR: Wangsa Maju police took down a Nigerian syndicate that intercepted RM1.8mil from a Saudi Arabian businessman who was buying cranes from a South Korean company.
The syndicate that consisted of 10 people is believed to have been operating from within Malaysia for as long as five years and may have targeted other high-value business transactions among foreigners.
“Their method of hijacking a deal was simple, yet hard to detect,” said Wangsa Maju OCPD Supt Mohd Roy Suhaimi Sarif, who said the syndicate would create an e-mail account similar to their victim’s business partner to intercept their online discussions.
“In this case, they made an e-mail account that was the same as the South Korean company, but they only had the .kr missing at the back of the address. The Saudi Arabian didn’t even know he was talking to the syndicate. He didn’t suspect anything.”
The syndicate hijacked the e-mail thread in September and began arranging for the victim, an oil and gas chief executive officer, to purchase assets to the tune of RM1.8mil.
They then paid a Malaysian woman RM1,000 to register two shell companies with the Securities Commission and to open three bank accounts in the name of the companies. The Saudi Arabian businessman was then directed to wire the sum into these three accounts.
“The businessman only realised he had been tricked when the real South Korean company contacted him to ask why he had not responded to their e-mail. He came here to lodge a police report with us on Dec 9,” Supt Mohd Roy said.
The police traced the Malaysian woman who opened the bank accounts and arrested her and a Nigerian man at a bank branch in Sentul on Dec 15.
The police then raided condominiums in Cyberjaya and Sri Putramas, where they arrested nine other foreigners, effectively crippling the international syndicate.
The syndicate members included seven Nigerian men, two Nigerian women and a Filipino woman. The Malaysian woman was freed and would be a witness in the court case, the police said.
“They are aged 30 to 35. They have been here between five and seven years, and may have been running several other scams at the same time,” he said.
In another case, Supt Mohd Roy also issued a warning about gangs that prey on mostly expatriates with the promise of better gold and foreign currency exchange rates.
Since October, five people have lost a total of RM2mil to these gangs. They usually use Malaysian women to convince victims of the “special officer” on social media.
He said victims would be offered a special exchange rate for foreign currency or gold, and were asked to withdraw a huge sum of money before meeting the Malaysian women in a public area.
Then the gang members would rob the victim before escaping in rented cars.