Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Business: The Economy
Gold dust scam
Dubai's rich businessmen are targetted by West African fraudsters
Dreams of pots of gold have turned to dust for businessmen in Dubai, who were targeted by a West African fraudster in a new fax scam.
The businessmen received strange faxes from a man based in Ivory Coast who asked for their help in disposing of millions of dollars worth of gold dust.
He called himself John Diako Sono Junior, and claimed his father was the director general of the gold and diamond refining corporation of Sierra Leone.
The man said his father had been killed and mutilated during that country's civil war.
In his faxes John Diako claimed that the family's accounts were frozen but that he had discovered two boxes of valuables in his father's underground apartment.
He said that one contained $12m in cash while the other contained a 185 kilogramms of alluvial gold dust.
The faxes then asked for the help of the Gulf businessmen in moving these sums abroad, promising in their words "handsome compensation to those who help dispose of the riches".
A reporter for the Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News contacted the sender and pretended to be interested in the offer.
John Diako asked him to fly to the Ivory Coast to open a foreign exchange currency account. They agreed on a percentage commission and John Diako insisted that their supposed deal had to remain a secret.
When the reporter then told him who he was, the alleged John Diako became angry and put the phone down.
Police in Dubai say that local businessmen are frequently the targets of financial fraud letters from abroad. Those who had been duped into giving their bank account details to strangers, have often found their accounts emptied, and all contact then lost with their 'business partner'.
The 'pot of gold' faxes are widely believed to be a new form of the financial scam letters which have been emanating from Nigeria in recent years.
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