Scam alert: ‘How Presidency offered me R200m’
Conmen posing as government officials - including the president - are ripping off gullible businesspeople
Mpumalanga businessman Gilbert Nkosi could not believe his luck when he received a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office informing him of a R200m investment in his company.
It was only later, after many e-mails and “official” correspondence, that he started growing suspicious.
Unfortunately, by this time, he had already paid R5,600 in “legal fees” to enable the R200m payment; and he was being asked for another R62,000 in “transfer fees”. Perhaps even more unfortunate: he is not the only SA businessperson who has been conned by fraudsters posing as government officials.
The State Security Agency has expressed its concern over the trend, and the National Treasury has published a warning on its website.
Nkosi received “calls and e-mails” from the president’s office telling him that his company has been identified to receive a R200m investment from the China Development Bank (CDB). He was to receive this funding through the help and assistance of “Ramaphosa”.
But Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, Khusela Sangoni-Diko, said the president had no knowledge of this.
“This is clearly a scam. When the matter was reported to our officials, they advised Mr Nkosi that it was a scam. Further, the presidency officials also reported this to our internal security as well as the SSA to conduct an investigation,” said Diko.Diko said they were aware of a number of fake accounts, particularly on social media platforms, that claim to belong to the president.
“It is said that these accounts employ similar methods and attempt to siphon people out of their hard-earned monies. We urge members of the public to disregard any communication purporting to be from the president on such platforms and always treat with circumspect any requests for monies received via these platforms … the President does not canvass any monies or investment in the manner reported,” said Diko.
Brian Dube, of the SSA, said scams of this nature were a matter of serious concern.
“As soon as the matter is communicated fully with us, the SSA together with relevant law enforcement agencies will launch an investigation,” said Dube.
Nkosi said the person who phoned him, who claimed to be the president of the Chinese Development Bank, had a Chinese accent.
“I reported this to the Hawks to investigate. I told them what I suspected and they said they will take this up with the national intelligence.”
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the matter was with Mpumalanga police detectives.
Nkosi is currently involved in the building of a multimillion-rand mall in Oshoek, Mpumalanga, on the border between SA and Swaziland.Last month he thought a real opportunity had arisen when he received the phone call about the investment coming his way. But he became suspicious when he was told the funds could not be released by the bank until he had paid R62,000 in transfer fees.
“I had already paid close to R5,600 for legal fees,” he said.
Nkosi said all the communication happened on the letterheads of the Chinese Development Bank. Times Select has seen a Financing Document, a Non-Residential Beneficiary form, and an Inland Revenue Services tax collection department document purportedly from CDB, which were sent to Nkosi.
Nkosi is not the only victim of such scams.
Another Johannesburg-based businessman lost R75,000 after he received an e-mail, purportedly from the Transport department, calling for Request for Proposals.
The businessman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he was told to submit quotes to supply and deliver specialised batteries to the department’s Pretoria office.
“I was on a business trip out of the country when I received that e-mail. We had to make plans to get the money to pay for the batteries. They even gave me an order number and I believed them,” he said.He was told to make an upfront payment before the specialised batteries would be delivered.
“After we paid the money we waited for the delivery but nothing came, and when we asked the department they knew nothing about that,” said the businessman.
He reported the matter to the police in Pretoria.
“I was told that I am not the only one and the departments are now issuing scam alerts to warn people of these people. I admit that I was stupid.”
The National Treasury department has put a scam alert on its website, saying a number of companies have lost tens of thousands of rand due to fraudulent requests for quotations and orders, supposedly from government departments.
Last year, the health department alerted the relevant law enforcement authorities to investigate a scam where their letterheads were used to defraud unsuspecting businesspeople.