The mastermind behind the scam that almost stole R100 million from the University of Mpumalanga has fled the country after he was released by the Hawks, the City Press reports.
In July, scammers had forged emails convincing senior staff that the university’s asset manager’s banking details had changed from Standard Bank to FNB.
The scammer impersonated an Investec employee who regularly corresponded with Mpumalanga university’s revenue and expenditure director, Oliver Mbhalati.
That led to the university transferring R100 million to a bank account over which the scammers had control.
Fortunately, FNB froze the account after flagging the transfer as suspicious, given that there was only R10 in the account before the multi-million rand payment.
Mpumalanga university finance executive director Kevin Pather later discovered something was amiss when the investment broker informed him over a phone call that the money had not been transferred to the correct account.
The scammers only managed to withdraw R3,000 before the account was frozen.
City Press has now reported that Crime Intelligence had arrested a Nigerian national suspected to be behind the scam at an address in Alberton.
That was after they secured a video of a man withdrawing the cash at Quagga Shopping Centre in Pretoria and identified his vehicle.
At the address, they seized details of several bank accounts, including 23 with FNB, 13 with Capitec, eight African Bank accounts, and two with Standard Bank.
That included an FNB account to which the university’s R100 million had been transferred.
The account holder turned out to be a woman living in an informal settlement in Daveyton near Springs, who was hospitalised for Covid-19 when the withdrawal was taking place
A crime intelligence source told the City Press that this was a common modus operandi used by fraudsters in the country, with syndicates paying poor people to open accounts in their own names and then giving the cards and details to the fraudsters.
Crime Intelligence had also linked the Nigerian national to accounts used for romance scams where they allegedly defrauded victims they lured in through dating sites.
They handed him and other suspects involved in the fraud over to the Hawks.
However, the agency released all of the suspects and only acquired a warrant of arrest against the account holder.
Hawks spokesperson Thandi Mbambo told City Press the suspects had to be released because the docket was not placed on the court’s roll.
City Press said the source in crime intelligence has claimed the Nigerian suspect subsequently skipped the country.