The alleged online romance scammers’ bail application has been bogged down in extradition technicalities.
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- Eight men facing extradition to the US got a taste of the technicalities in court.
- They were arrested in Cape Town in an FBI, Hawks and Interpol swoop.
- Their bail application is bogged down in the intricacies of the laws of the two countries.
The eight men accused of internet romance scams, got their first taste of the technicalities they will face if they decide to fight their extradition to the US.
The Cape Town “catfishers” appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
They allegedly scammed lonely hearts out of cash.
There is an order barring media from publishing images of them after the court heard their families and children had already been threatened.
READ | The scamdemic: When the world shut down in 2020, romance scams ramped up
The State insisted they must apply for bail under Schedule 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).
This made it harder to get bail before extradition processes were finalised, because under Schedule 5 the onus was on the accused to show why they could safely be released from custody.
The weighty Hiemstra has an outing for the alleged catfishing for cash case starting off in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. The US wants to extradite 8 people to face charges there. The court wants to know what the equivalent charges are in SA for bail. @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/26vFml3lTM
— Jenni Evans (@itchybyte) October 28, 2021
The accused are Perry Osagiede, Enorense Izevbiege, Franklin Edosa Osagiede, Osariemen Eric Clement, Collins Owhofasa Otughwor, Musa Mudashiru, Prince Ibeabuchi Mark and Toritseju Gabriel Otubu.
They are understood to be Nigerian nationals, who were arrested in Parklands, a suburb near Blouberg in Cape Town.
The US wanted to extradite them to face charges there, but first the South African court must agree on what the local equivalent charges are for the purposes of the bail application.
South African crimes are labelled by schedules in terms of the CPA and these determined how they applied for bail.
If it is a lower schedule, the State must argue why they should stay behind bars during the investigation and trial. If it is a higher schedule – the accused must show why they think it is in the interests of justice to get bail.
At the same time, the State has to make sure they are not a flight risk, won’t destroy evidence and won’t interfere with witnesses.
The accused’s lawyer Ben Prinsloo questioned whether there were equivalent crimes to what they are accused of in the US, in South Africa.
The US charges so far, according to the Hawks are:
- Wire fraud conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section (s) k1349;
- Wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section (s) 1343 and 2;
- Money laundering conspiracy in violation of Title, United States Code Section(s) 1956(h); and
- Aggravated identity theft in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section(s) 1028A and 2.
The warrants were issued in New Jersey and Texas.
The multinational investigation involving the FBI and Interpol linked the accused to an alleged scam that fleeced at least US$6.8m from US citizens and others around the world.
The State is opposing bail.
Prosecutor Robin Lewis said the names of the crimes in the two countries may not be exactly the same, but a reading of the descriptions of the crimes made it clear that South Africa had the equivalent.
The matter continues.