The Botswana Serious Crime Squad is investigating a notorious international internet gang, which is preying on unsuspecting Batswana businessmen.
Irshad Aswat, a Botswana businessman importing goods from China, was recently swindled out of P300 000 and the money trail led to a China Merchant Bank account under the name of Sky Park Trading Limited.
Telegraph investigations have turned up information linking the Bank account number to international hackers operating in four continents who have been masterminding a string of hi-tech crimes, including identity theft, phishing and spam.
The phishers behind Skypark Trading Limited are cyber criminals who are sophisticated at spoofing legitimate brands and operate bank accounts in China, London, United States of America and Africa under different names which they use to launder the money.
Sky Park Trading Limited was among criminal gangs that cashed in on the Haiti earthquake by seeking funds for bogus charities via millions of spam e-mails, a Telegraph investigation can reveal. Sky Park Trading Limited issued email appeals that used the name and logo of UNICEF, its Executive Officer Ann Veneman and Board Chairman of the US Fund for UNICEF, Anthony Pantaleoni.
The ScamBaiter ÔÇô an online cyber vigilante outfit, was however able to bait the criminals behind Sky Park Trading to provide four different bank accounts in three continents.
Botswana currently does not have an extradition agreement with China.
In a bid to track down the fraudsters, the Botswana government has recently sent an international letter of request to the Chinese government in connection with “the criminal investigations in Botswana and the assistance sought in the Republic of China”.
Superintendent Chifana Toitoi of Serious Crime Squad told The Telegraph this week that they are investigating a case of “obtaining by false pretences” in which one businessman in Botswana, Irshad Aswat, who is a Director of Reliable Wholesalers, was importing goods from Ningbo Lumeigas Value Company in China and was swindled out of P250 000 by cyber criminals.
Aswat was communicating with the manager of the Chinese company, a certain Mrs. Mary Lee by e-mails.
He was instructed to pay the money into a new bank account number in the names of Skypark Trading, Account Number OSA 755916032809, China Merchant Bank, Shezen Branch, China. This is the same account number that was used by cyber criminals who spoofed the UNICEF brand in fraudulent e-mail appeals for Haiti earthquake victims.
On 29th March 2010, Aswat transferred the P250 000 into the Skypark Trading Account and sent a copy of the transfer slip to Mrs. Lee, who then sent an e-mail message confirming receiving the money and stating that she would be on leave until April 5th.
On April 7th Aswat received an e-mail message from Mary Lee stating that she had not received the money. Aswat sent her another copy of the payment/transfer slip. He then phoned to find out if Mary Lee had checked the new account.
Mary Lee, who was surprised at the mention of the new account, asked Aswat why he sent the money to the account. Aswat told her that she had instructed him to send the money to the new account. He forwarded her all copies of their e-mail communication. Mrs. Lee confirmed that indeed the e-mail address was hers but stated that she was not the one who had been communicating with Aswat.
The Botswana Serious Crime Squad is trying to establish the origin of the e-mail instruction to Aswat and “to investigate the company directorship of Skypark Trading Company and or the possible hacker of Mrs. Mary Lee’s e-mail account information”.