Holland: Six arrested.

De Master Yoda

Six arrests over huge online scam

August 9, 2007 - 6:13AM

Six men have been arrested in the Netherlands over an alleged internet scam that cost an Australian $US1.5 million ($1.76 million), police said today.

The six, taken into custody last week, are believed to be part of a west African network, police said. Five of them are from West Africa, including two Nigerians, they added.

The men are suspected of extorting the money from a 49-year-old Australian man after promising him, by email, a lucrative business contract worth $US90 million ($105.42 million), according to police.

"We are talking about a massive fraud using marketing techniques," said Harry Jongkind, coordinator of a Dutch police operation dedicated to internet-based scams.

"Any type of fraud that uses telecommunications: the internet, email or fax, often involves demanding the payment of costs in advance and before being able to touch the bonanza ... which the victim in the end will never get a glimpse of," Mr Jongkind said in the central city of Haarlem.

These scams usually involved foreign bank accounts, he added.

"And the crooks are never located in the same country as their victim in order to make police cooperation difficult."

In the Australian's case, the alleged scam started a year ago in Japan before spreading to other countries, and then ended in Amsterdam where he came for an appointment with his alleged business partners.

After advancing large sums of money, supposedly for such things as notary fees, the Australian finally started getting the idea that he was being ripped off, police said.

He alerted Dutch police who were then able to arrest the three suspected swindlers in an Amsterdam hotel where they had arranged to meet the Australian with a suitcase full of money claiming it would soon be his.

Another meeting in an office building in Abcoude led to the three other arrests.

Dutch police since October have been involved in a program to specifically track down fraud over the internet. They have made 74 arrests and seized lists of email addresses of targeted victims.

The fraudsters - as many as 18,000 in Europe - are very inventive, experts say. They reproduce the internet websites of major international banks and open accounts with borrowed names and fake companies.

As for the victims, those who have filed complaints have paid the scam artists anywhere from 8,500 to 2.5 million euros ($13,700 to $4.03 million), police say.