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419 scammers face extradition

Johannesburg, 22 Aug 2006
Read time 1min 30sec

Three South African men who allegedly scammed Burundi`s incumbent telecoms company Onatel out of $600 000 will be extradited, a Johannesburg magistrate ruled on Friday.

Joseph Lato Tsotetsi, Vusumuzi Stanley Mncube and Cyril Morolo were released on R30 000 bail each, says Sally de Beer, spokesman for the national commissioner of the South African Police Services. They were also ordered to surrender their passports to the police, she says.

According to a Balancing Act report, on 2 November 2004, Tsotetsi, Mncube and Morolo offered Onatel a loan of $10 million in order to build a GSM network.

The Burundi government signed a second agreement with the men under the auspices of their investment company, the report says. The agreement specified that the investment company would lend Onatel the money in two parts: a first payment of $6 million and a second one of $4 million, it says.

The agreement also specified that Onatel would pay a 10% security deposit on the first payment, which came to $600 000. Onatel transferred the amount into the "investment company`s" bank account.

This was a face-to-face version of the 419 scam, writes Russell Southwood, CEO of Balancing Act.

De Beer says the defence team for the men will lodge an appeal against the extradition within the prescribed 15 days. She was unable to provide information on the charges the three will face in Burundi, should their appeal fail.

Southwood notes: "These types of scams only serve to reinforce the impression that Africa is a high-risk place to do business."

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