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By Faith Nyasuguta 

Some eight Nigerian men linked to an internet dating scam have appeared before a South African court following a mega multinational operation involving both the FBI and Interpol.

Authorities based in the US, where the probe started off and most suspects are based, have applied for their deportation.

The eight are accused of defrauding over 100 victims of almost $7million (£5million) in total in the last 10 years.They are yet to comment on the charges.

Police spokeswoman Col Katlego Mogale says this is the biggest such bust in South Africa.

The eight suspects, aged between 33 and 52 were nabbed in Cape Town on Tuesday following a legal assistance request from the US.


The eight men are wanted in Texas and New Jersey for a variety of offences, including conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, money-laundering and aggravated identity theft.

While opposing their release on bail, prosecutor Robin Lewis claimed that the men are members of the Black Axe, a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, whose specialities include laundering money via various accounts.

The state further argued that the men were a flight risk since they still have access to accounts allegedly used. If convicted, the eight face 20 years behind bars.



The eight are said to have preyed on their victims via dating sites using false identities. The victims, often vulnerable widows or divorcees across the globe, thought they were in genuine romantic relationships.

Col Mogale revealed that once the suspects “had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob-stories about why they needed money – ie taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then siphoned money from victims”.

“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared,” she said.

A neighbour of two of the suspects, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed to the BBC that he was shocked to hear some two brothers were alleged to be members of a Nigerian crime gang.

“[They] were friendly and never brought any crime to the area. The one brother was married to a South African citizen,” he said.


“Once a week about 10 luxury cars would arrive and leave again in a few hours. These were top-end vehicles like a 2021 Mercedes Benz, a Jeep and a Ferrari. The way they dressed you could tell they were wealthy.”

The neighbour was woken up by the barking of dogs when the brothers’ homes were raided on Tuesday. 

Some 60 men from various police units spent about six hours gathering evidence at the properties. Seven other properties were raided in the same neighbourhood.

South Africa’s TimeLive reported the Hawks were searching for a ninth man connected to the case.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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