International credit and ATM thieves are feared to be operating in Botswana after two Sri Lankans, one Briton, one Singaporean and one Namibian were arrested in possession of Botswana pulas and numerous counterfeit ATM cards in Namibia.
The first accused, 24-year-old Amirthaligam Pugalnanthy, is a Sri Lankan national; second accused, 29-year-old Salheesskumar Thulasitha, is a British national; third accused, 23-year-old Parasasingam Sarangan, is also a Sri Lankan; fourth accused, 26-year-old Tjiuiju Travoltha Mekaundapi, is a Namibian national; and the fifth accused, 42-year-old Abdur Kader Jamal, is a Singaporean national.
The five suspects face four charges: fraud, theft, forgery and possession of foreign currency under the Bank of Namibia (BON) Act which prohibits the possession of such large amounts of hard currency.
The five suspects were arrested on Monday last week with a huge stack of cash while allegedly trying to withdraw money from an ATM at Black Chain at Katutura using counterfeit cards.
Following a month-long investigation, the police managed to seize from the five culprits almost N$1-million in local currency, Botswana pula, U.S. dollars and euros.
According to the investigating officers, the case had apparently been going on for the past two months since the launch of the operation.
Parasasingam Sarangan, Amirthaligam Pugalnanthy and Salheeskumar Thulsaithas were caught red-handed at Bank Windhoek’s ATM at Black Chain in Katutura and, upon their arrest, the three were forced to call their other partner, Tjiuju Travoltha Mekaundapu, who had dropped them at the ATM and was to pick them up again. Unfortunately for him, the police had already arrested the three culprits by the time he arrived with a Nissan pick-up. He too was immediately arrested.
The suspects are believed to be international dealers. They are accused of using skimming devices which slide an ATM card into a skimmer which will read all the account information electronically stored on the magnetic strip and, depending on the sophistication, records of personal identification number or PIN as one punches it in on an ATM keyboard.
Although this sort of card fraud might not be common in Botswana and Namibia, it is said to have reached alarming proportions in European countries where the suspects are thought to have honed their skills.