A number of local big companies are believed to have been conned out of millions of Pula by a sophisticated bank cheque fraud syndicate that has taken over the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) control room and launched a “phishing” style attack on local commercial banks, cleaning out customers’ accounts.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed how Botswana’s commercial banks have been caught napping by new age Bonnies and Clydes who are making away with millions of Pulas in customers money without firing a single gun shot.
The sophisticated con job involves, cloning cheques, stealing identities of cheque signatories, diverting telephone calls and rigging bank transactions.
Although BTC is still unaware that is has been infiltrated by a syndicate of cheque fraud gangsters, the Botswana Police Service this week confirmed the new trend in which bank cheque fraudsters are conniving with BTC insiders to divert telephone call from the corporation’s control room and defraud financial institutions and big companies of millions of pula.
Detective assistant superintendent Alfred Nthata of Serious Crime Squad told Sunday Standard that they are currently investigating a BTC technician who allegedly assisted criminals to divert calls between commercial banks and customers and rig bank transactions, making away with an undisclosed amount of money.
“I can not reveal how much money was stolen because investigations are still on going” said Nthata. It is however believed that the money runs into millions of pula.
Nthata explained that the syndicate either steal cheque leafs from big companies or clone the companies’ cheques, forge signatures, write out huge amounts of move and issue them to the cheques.
Working from the BTC control room, they then divert standard calls from the banks to the customers confirming the transactions. The calls are diverted to one of the syndicates own who masquerades as a signatory to the account and confirms the fraudulent cheque as legitimate. He confirmed that the fraud is so rampant it has developed into a trend. And the high value, high volume telephone banking cheque fraud scam is believed to have defrauded banks of millions of Pula.
Nthata appealed to companies and banks to make sure that their banks details and cheque books are kept safe.
BTC Public Relations Officer, James Molosankwe told Sunday Standard on Wednesday that was not aware of any investigations conducted by the police regarding the matter.
“The matter has not yet reached my table as yet” said Molosankwe.
The new trend takes the cheque fraud takes what had become one of the countries biggest white collar frauds to a new level. More than P3, 4 million was stolen from some local commercial banks and an insurance company between January 2005 and January 2006, through forged cheques.
A spokesperson of the fraud unit of the Serious Crime Squad, Detective Assistant Superintendent Thabo Mmopiemang said the banks and the insurance company were defrauded P 3 493 201 in which 30 forged cheques were used. Most of the money was stolen from Metropolitan Botswana. The syndicate comprised Batswana and Tanzanian fraudsters. In another case, a syndicate of Batswana and South African cheque fraudsters were arrested after defrauding Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Life and Bank of Botswana of P 108 000, using 17 forged cheques. BoB, worried by the rise in bank cheque fraud issued a statement informing the public that “there has been an increase in fraud cases involving Government cheques. Criminal syndicates are intercepting low-value Government cheques and forging them by changing the payee’s details and inflating the amount payable. The forged cheques are then deposited to existing accounts with commercial banks, often using fake identity documents.