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Friday, December 4, 1998 Published at 18:38 GMT

World: Middle East

Internet scam offers millions

Free money offer - fall for it now, pay later

By Frank Gardner in Dubai

"On behalf of the Mobutu family, I wish to give you $30m," reads one extract from an electronic mail now being sent to businessmen in the United Arab Emirates over the Internet.

The sender is calling himself Phillip Kullar, and claims to be the Mobutu family's legal adviser.

A copy of the e-mail has been obtained by the local Dubai-based newspaper, Gulf News, which says that the money offered allegedly belonged to the late Congolese President, Mobutu Sese Seko.

The e-mail tells Gulf businessmen that Mr Kullar found their personal data in a private apartment of President Mobutu in his home town of Lisala.

Then it goes on to say that the sender has already transferred $139m out of the Democratic Republic of Congo to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

The letter then invites the businessman to come to Abidjan to receive the $30m from Mr Mobutu's first son.

It also asks him to open a bank account in Abidjan and to send his curriculum vitae and personal contact details.

Although in this case the recipient is not actually asked to remit money, the usual practice in these cases is that once contact has been established, the sender then asks for an advance of thousands of dollars to pay off officials and taxes.

The promised money then rarely materialises.

Over the last 10 years, Nigeria has been the principal base for such scam offers with more than 50,000 scam letters received in Britain by the beginning of this year.

Recently a number of similar frauds have been reported to be coming from South Africa, and now, it seems, two more countries have had their names added to the list.

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