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A 29 year old Nigerian has been arrested in Berlin as part of an international gang of 419 scammers, local police announced last Thursday. The young man, suspected of having been involved in swindles amounting to several million euros, presented himself to the Berlin police to reclaim 50,000 euros that had been confiscated by customs on his return from a trip to Switzerland.

The money was seized because the suspect, who is living on social security payments from the German government, was unable to provide a plausible explanation as to where the money had come from. Using a search warrant, the Berlin police were able to seize a number of documents that showed he was part of a larger gang which may be as large as 30 people in different countries. They enabled the transfer of large sums of money outside Africa for a 30% commission on them, according to early inquiries by the police. In order to maintain their credibility with intended victims they sent them falsified cheques. Around 100 people have been arrested in Germany alone since the police started focusing their resources on this kind of crime in 1990. Berlin police cited the case of a Bavarian who had transferred 200,000 euros to Nigerian 419 scammers.

According to TogoWeb, a number of these scammers have been operating out of cyber-cafes in Lomé over the last few years. It has been a big problem for local police and the reputation of the country’s financial sector because scammers often present themselves as being part of Togolese banks. A number of police operations have been targeted against the scammers recently but as TogoWeb observes: "It’s not easy to capture these virtual bandits. "