An international lottery scam has come to light with the arrest of two Ghana nationals, Kofi Michel, 26 and James Kwame, 34, near here, for allegedly defrauding a Handiaya resident, Bandhantor Bhari, of Rs 14 lakh, over two months.
The tentacles of the scam go far in time and geography with the victim claiming that its roots lay in November, when he received a Facebook invite from one Vicky Anderson profiling herself as secretary of BBC, Edinburgh, UK.
Soon afterwards, he was told that that he had won $7.5 lakh (approximately Rs 4.5 crore) from BBC, UK. The victim claims that he taken in as he thought the acronyms stood for the channel by the same name. Bhari then deposited Rs 48,000 and Rs 1,20,000 in the name of Customs duty and visa fees, respectively to get the lottery.
Soon, an agent of Anderson visited Bhari's home and reportedly gave him a trunk-full of notes covered with a black dye, ostensibly to evade Customs. He then applied a chemical and two notes were usable. He reportedly could not clean all the notes as the liquid bottle accidentally 'broke'.
Later, he received a call from an aide of Anderson to pay Rs 12 lakh towards cost of chemical. On refusal, he was threatened with an CBI inquiry.
The victim then searched for the fluid and reportedly bought one litre cleaning fluid for Rs 5 lakh from Delhi, but the notes could be cleaned. He then searched one more time and came in touch with one Frank from Delhi and again paid Rs 5 lakh to him.
Then, Franck demanded Rs 15 lakh, all in Rs 1,000 denomination, to purportedly extract some chemicals from these notes to be used to turn his price money into dollars. Later, police was to found out that the notes were to be replaced with fake ones.
A team from Franck's office then visited the victim's home on Tuesday. Barnala police laid a trap and arrested the accused. More than Rs 5.8 lakh have in fake currency and 250 gm chemical powder have been recovered. A case under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 489-A to D (counterfeit currency) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC has been registered.
A woman companion of the scammers telephoning the victim to know the whereabouts of 'agents'.
SSP Opinderjit Singh Ghuman, said, "The accused are part of a gang based in Delhi. We hope to crack the case with the help of certain telephone numbers that we have got from the accused."
Investigation officer SI Harjinder Singh said, "We have recovered passports of culprits, who have refused to sign any papers. They have been remanded to two-day police custody. The high commission of Ghana has been informed of the arrest by email and fax."
The black money chemical scam is a variation of Advance Fee Fraud or 419 Nigeria scam. Scamsters send you the prize money, purportedly won in lottery, and then ask for money to get these in usable condition. Again, sometimes fake notes are replaced with genuine notes, as in this case. An internet search for 'chemical to clean bank notes' gives result of various websites with email addresses and mobile numbers of Delhi.