Cyber fraud syndicate busted in Auasblick

Niël Terblanché

In a significant blow to cybercriminal activities, the Namibian Police apprehended 20 individuals, primarily foreign nationals, on a slew of charges that encompass human trafficking, cyber fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

The mass arrest follows a raid on a house in the affluent Windhoek neighbourhood of Auasblick.

The individuals in custody consist of 11 Chinese, five Zimbabweans, two Namibians, one Singaporean, and one Cuban. Major General Elias Mutota, the Deputy Inspector General of the Namibian Police, during a special briefing on Friday, elaborated on the details of this intricate operation.

It has been discovered that this syndicate recruited at least 88 young Namibians, primarily students, indoctrinating them to craft counterfeit social media profiles. These fake profiles were utilized to lure potential victims with false investment opportunities. These students were compensated with a salary, reportedly around N$3,000, for their role.

Moreover, these unsuspecting students were tutored by the aforementioned foreign nationals to create deceptive accounts, build trust with the victims, and persuade them to invest.

Highlighting the depth of this operation, General Mutota stated, “These foreign culprits had a tight grip over the electronic wallet. They not only housed these students but also compensated them in cash and managed their transportation to the call centre.

He added that the syndicate operated exclusively during nighttime from 17:00 PM to 6:00 AM, intending to give their USA-based victims an illusion of corresponding time zones.”

The operations were so meticulously executed that these students had their movements monitored, and they were equipped with company phones, which were retrieved after their shifts.

The primary platforms for communication with the overseas victims were WhatsApp and Telegram, both displaying USA numbers.

The sinister aspect was once the unsuspecting victims deposited a substantial amount, communication lines went dead. The invested cryptocurrency was then converted into cash, effectively embezzling the funds. For these conversions, two Bitcoin kiosks situated in local malls and linked with PayPal were utilized.

Upon their arrest, the authorities confiscated a staggering 163 computers, 350 mobile phones, six vehicles, twelve firearms, a variety of ammunition, drugs, protected resources, and a significant sum of cash amounting to N$365,447.00.

With the investigation ongoing, General Mutota expressed uncertainty regarding the fate of the 88 Namibian students. Whether they will face charges or assist the state as witnesses during the trial remains to be seen.

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