Eight foreign nationals, who are also wanted by the US, made their first appearance at a South African court in connection with a cross-border, multi-million dollar online scam.
They appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
The suspects, who were wanted arrested on Tuesday in the legislative capital of South Africa in a large-scale joint operation, allegedly defrauded American citizens and others around the world of $6.8 million.
They were charged in the US with wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, National Prosecuting Authority’s regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila told Xinhua news agency outside the court after their appearance.
They intend to apply for bail but the prosecutor will oppose the bail application as the accused are a flight risk, and are likely to tamper with evidence electronically, and some of them stay in the country illegally with expired passports, said Ntabazalila.
According to the police, the American government issued warrants for their arrests, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Secret Service (USSS) were involved in the joint operation together with Interpol, with the assistance from the South African police.
The suspects, who used social media websites and online dating websites, allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom were vulnerable widows or divorcees who were led to believe that they were in a genuine romantic relationship, but were scammed out of their hard earned money.
They also used business email compromise, where accounts are diverted in order to change banking details.