The letter always starts something like this: "Before going into details of my proposal to you, I must first solicit you to treat with the utmost confidentiality, as this is required for its success."
The letter explains that some very large amount of money has been over-invoiced by the Government of Nigeria and that this money remains unspent. Therefore, you (who have been highly recommended) are asked to agree to have this money deposited in your bank account and then you are to pay 55% of that money to (as yet unnamed) beneficiaries in their private bank accounts in Switzerland.
There are many variations on this. Not all are from Nigeria. Some claim to come from the sons of the recently assassinated leader of the Republic of Congo or from relatives of other high governmental officials.
These letters are just the latest variation on a scheme which has been going on for a long time. It is known as "The Old Nigerian Scam".
I received my first letter like this in 1992 when I was in Japan.
At that time, I was involved in developing puzzles for commercial sale. I had several puzzles which were variations on Rubik's Cube. I received a letter from a puzzle inventor in Shanghai, China. He had invented a puzzle which was essentially an inside-out version of Rubik's Cube.
In his introductory letter, he said that he had obtained a promise from Nigeria to put up $18 million to fund the development of this puzzle. He included a copy of the letter from Nigeria.
I decided to send a letter to his funding source.
Two weeks later, I received a letter from Nigeria. It said that the Government of Nigeria had allocated $18 million to build a petrochemical pipeline in Nigeria.
All I had to do is send my bank account number and company letterhead and I would be sent the $18 million and then I was to deposit 55% in the bank account in Switzerland and keep the other 45% for myself.
I responded to this letter and afterwards I received telephone calls from Lagos, Nigeria almost every night for the next month. I also received a few DHL packages. I received corporate documents showing that my company had been incorporated in Lagos, Nigeria. The documents seemed authentic.
It was not the same person always calling. Apparently, my number had gotten around and different groups were offering me better deals in competition with each other.
I realized almost immediately that this was just a scam. However, the mystery was: What was the scam? The people who were calling me from Nigeria were obviously running huge telephone bills, or else they had obtained unauthorized access to the telephone system. Also, DHL packages from Nigeria are not cheap. I had not given them a dime plus I had checked with my bank to make sure that they could not withdraw any of my money.
Finally, I realized what the scam must be. They kept asking me to come to Nigeria. When I asked why, they said that they did not want to give $18 million to a person they had never met.
I called the US Embassy in Tokyo and they sent me a release which the State Department had put out about it. I actually read it over the telephone to the Nigerians who kept calling me and asked for their comments.
The basic plan was that once I reached Nigeria, I would be taken to the office of a general. He would be a real general or at least he would look like one. I would be told that the general would need to be paid a small bribe of a few thousand dollars.
After I had paid the few thousand dollars, I would return to my hotel room where I would wait expecting to receive the $18 million at any moment.
After the money failed to arrive, I would be told that there was yet another general who also needed to be paid a few thousand dollars.
This process would continue until I was out of money.
If I tried to complain to the authorities, I could be arrested for offering a bribe. I might wind up staying in Nigeria for longer than I had planned.
When I got back to America in mid-1992, I found an article in the business section of the New York Times entitled "The Nigerian Scam". The scam is that after you agree, they tell you to fly to Nigeria to meet the person who will give you the $18 million.
One British firm paid over one hundred thousand dollars in supposed bribes before realizing that they had been taken. There was a US State Department release about this. It said that in some cases the unwitting bribe-giver when he refused to pay more had been arrested for attempting to bribe a government official. Then, he had to pay more money to get out of jail.
The Nigerians have obviously updated with the new technology available and are now sending millions of these letters out by bulk e-mail over the Internet.
Here are a few samples of letters I have received just in the past few weeks. Once you get used to receiving these letters, they actually become quite funny to read:
FROM: DR.AHMED MANTU
NO 9.OJO RD,
I would like to firstly send to you the best wishes good health and success in your pursuits particularly through my proposal as contained in this letter.
Before going into details of my proposal to you, I must first solicit you to treat with the utmost confidentiality, as this is required for it success.
My colleagues and I are senior officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria's Contracts Review Panel who are interested in diverting some funds that are presently floating in the accounts of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In order to commence this transaction, we solicit for you assistance to enable us transfer into your account the said floating funds.
The source of the funds are as follows: During the last military regime in Nigeria, government officials set up companies and awarded themselves contracts that were grossly over-invoiced in various ministries and parastatals. The present civilian government set up the Contract Review Panel, which has the mandate to use the instruments of payments made available to it by the decree setting up the panel, to review these contracts and if necessary pay those who are being owed outstanding amounts. My colleagues and I have identified quite a huge sum of these funds which are presently floating in the Central Bank of Nigeria ready for disbursement and would like to divert some of it for our own purpose. However, by virtue of our positions as civil servants and members of this panel, we cannot acquire these funds in our names or in the names of companies that are based in Nigeria.
I have therefore been mandated, as a matter of trust by my colleagues in the panel, to look for a reliable overseas partner into whose account we can transfer the sum of U.S.$21,500,000.00 (thirty-one million, five hundred thousand U.S. dollars). That is why I am writing you this letter.
We have agreed to share the money to be transferred into your account, if you agree with our proposition as follows;
(i) 25% to the account owner (you).
(ii) 65% for us (the panel officials).
(iii) 10% to be used in settling all expenses (by both you and us ) incidental to the actualisation of this project.
We wish to invest our share of the proceeds of this project in foreign stock markets and other business till we are ready and able to have access to them without raising any eyebrows here at home. Please note that this transaction is 100% safe and risk-free. We intend to effect the transfer within fourteen (14) banking days from the date of receipt of the following information through the email address stated above:
Your bank's name, company's name, address and telephone and fax numbers and the account number into which the funds should be paid.
The above information will enable us write letters of claim and job description respectively. This way, we will use your company's name to apply for the payment and backdate the award of the contract to your company. We are looking forward to doing this transaction with you and we solicit for your utmost confidentiality in this transaction.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above email address. I will bring you into a more detailed picture of this transaction when I hear from you.
Dr. Ahmed Mantu
I am captain Eteki Sese Seko, a brother to the late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire now Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I got your contact address from a Broker who was commissioned by.........."
I AM A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE FEDERAL GOVT OF NIGERIA. I WAS RECENTLY ELECTED A SENATOR AND HAVE BEEN MANDATED BY SOME SENIOR GOVT OFFICIALS TO ARRANGE AND NEGOTIATE FOR A TRUSTED FORIEGN FIRM OR INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT TO ASSIST IN THE TRANSFER OF A HUGE SOME OF MONEY DERIVED FROM THE OVERINVOICING OF A CONTRACT PERFORMED IN 1998. THE CONTRACT WAS THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE ABUJA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT CONTROL TOWERS, CONSTRUCTION OF RUNWAY AND LANDING FACILITIES ETC ETC. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE ORIGINAL VALUE OF THESE CONTRACTS WERE PURPOSELY OVERINVOICED BY US DURING THE TENDER PERIOD. THE TOTAL MONEY TO BE TRANSFERED IS USD36 MILLION DOLLARS. WE HAVE MADE THE NECCESARY ARRANGEMENTS AND ALL WE NEED IS A RELIABLE FORIEGN ACCOUNT TO HELP US TRANSFER THIS SUM BECAUSE AS CIVIL SERVANTS, WE CANNOT HOLD FORIEGN ACCOUNTS ABROAD. MY COLLEAGUES HAVE AGREED TO GIVE YOU 30% OF THIS SUM FOR YOUR ASSSISTANCE, WHILE 10% WILL BE SET ASIDE TO REIMBURSE ANY EXPENSES INCURRED BY EITHER OF US DURING THE PERIOD OF TRANSFER, WHILE WE WILL KEEP 60% FOR US. ALL MODALITIES HAVE BEEN EFFICIENTLY AND SECRETLY WORKED OUT WITH THE TOP OFFICIALS OF THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF FINANCE IN NIGERIA, AND THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA. TO FACILITATE THE REMMITTANCE OF THIS AMOUNT INTO YOUR ACCOUNT WITHIN 14 WORKING DAYS OF RECIEVING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION FROM YOU:
THE NAME, ADDRESS, TELEX, TELEPHONE AND FAX NUMBERS OF YOUR BANK, YOUR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER, YOUR COMPANY'S NAME, YOUR PERSONAL PHONE AND FAX NUMBER.
I ALSO LOOK FORWARD TO DOING OTHER BUSINESSES WITH YOU INCLUDING OIL AND PETROLEUM AS SOON AS WE COMPLETE THIS TRANSACTION. PLEASE SEND ME AN EMAIL OR CALL ME ON 234 1 2672749
DR TONY IDRIS
RE: URGENT & CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL
I am Dr. Mekudi Rangim (JP) the chairman contract award committee.
Terms of Reference
My term of reference involves the award of contracts to multinational companies.
My office is saddled with the responsibility of contract award, screening, categorization and prioritization of projects embarked upon by Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) as well as feasibility studies for selected projects and supervising the project consultants involved. A breakdown of the fiscal expenditure by this office as at the end of the last fiscal quarter of 1999 indicates that DPR paid out a whooping sum of US$736M(Seven Hundred And Thirty Six Million, United States Dollars) to successful contract beneficiaries. The DPR is now compiling beneficiaries to be paid at the end of the first of Quarter of 2001.
The crux of this letter is that the finance/contract department of the DPR deliberately over-invoiced the contract value of the various contracts awarded. In the course of disbursements, this department has been able to accumulate the sum of US$18.2M (Eighteen Million, two hundred Thousand U.S Dollars) as the over-invoiced sum. This money is currently in a suspense account of the DPR account with the Debt Reconciliation Committee (DRC). We now seek to process the transfer this fund officially as contract payment to you as a foreign contractor, who will be fronting for us as the beneficiary of the fund. In this way we can facilitate these funds into your nominated account for possible investment abroad. We are not allowed as a matter of government policy to operate any foreign account to transfer this fund into.
However, for your involvement in assisting us with this transfer into your nominated account we have evolved a sharing formula as follows:
(1) 20% for you as the foreign partner
(2) 75% for I and my colleagues
(3) 5% will set aside to defray all incidental expenses both Locally and Internationally during the course of this transaction.
We shall be relying on your advice as regard investment of our share in any business in your country. Be informed that this business is genuine and 100% safe considering the high-power government officials involved. Send your private fax/telephone numbers. Upon your response we shall provide you with further information on the procedures. Feel free to call the undersign on Tel: 234 1 7591519. Send response by Fax: 234-1-7590904 expecting your call immediately. Looking forward to a good business relationship with you.
DR. MEKUDI RANGIM (JP)
FROM: BARRISTER KAREEM UCHI
OKEAYA INNEH LAW FIRM
ATTN: THE PRESIDENT
COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON. GRACE AND PEACE AND LOVE FROM THIS PART OF THE ATLANTIC TO YOU. I HOPE MY LETTER DOES NOT CAUSE YOU TOO MUCH EMBARRASSMENT AS I WRITE TO YOU IN GOOD FAITH. BASED ON THE CONTACT ADDRESS GIVEN TO ME BY A FRIEND WHO WORKS AT THE NIGERIAN EMBASSYIN YOUR COUNTRY. PLEASE EXCUSE MY INTRUSION INTO YOUR PRIVATE LIFE.
I AM BARRISTER KAREEM UCHI. I REPRESENT MOHAMMED ABACHA, SON OF THE LATE GEN. SANI ABACHA, WHO WAS THE FORMER MILITARY HEAD OF STATE IN NIGERIA. HE DIED IN 1998. SINCE HIS DEATH, THE FAMILY HAS BEEN LOOSING A LOT OF MONEY DUE TO VINDICTIVE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO ARE BENT ON DEALING WITH THE FAMILY. BASED ON THIS THEREFORE THE FAMILY HAS ASKED ME TO SEEK FOR A FOREIGN PARTNER WHO CAN WORK WITH US AS TO MOVE OUT THE TOTAL SUM OF US$75,000,000.00 (SEVENTY FIVE MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ), PRESENTLY IN THEIR POSSESSION. THIS MONEY WAS OF COURSE, ACQUIRED BY THE LATE PRESIDENT AND IS NOW KEPT SECRETLY BY THE FAMILY. THE SWISS GOVERNMENT HAS ALREADY FROZEN ALL THE ACCOUNTS OF THE FAMILY IN SWITZERLAND, AND SOME OTHER COUNTRIES WOULD SOON FOLLOW TO DO THE SAME. THIS BID BY SOME GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO DEAL WITH THIS FAMILY HAS MADE IT NECESSARY THAT WE SEEK YOUR ASSISITANCE IN RECEIVING THIS MONEY AND IN INVESTING IT ON BEHALF OF THE FAMILY.
THIS MUST BE A JOINT VENTURE TRANSACTION AND WE MUST ALL WORK TOGETHER. SINCE THIS MONEY IS STILL CASH, EXTRA SECURITY MEASURES HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO PROTECT IT FROM THEFT OR SEIZURE, PENDING WHEN AGREEMENT IS REACHED ON WHEN AND HOW TO MOVE IT INTO ANY OF YOUR NOMINATED BANK ACCOUNTS. I HAVE PERSONALLY WORKED OUT ALL MODALITIES FOR THE PEACEFUL CONCLUSION OF THIS TRANSACTION. THE TRANSACTION DEFINITELY WOULD BE HANDLED IN PHASES AND THE FIRST PHASE WILL INVOLVE THE MOVING OF US$25,000,000.00( TWENTY FIVE MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ).
MY CLIENTS ARE WILLING TO GIVE YOU A REASONABLE PERCENTAGE OF THIS MONEY AS SOON AS THE TRANSACTION IS CONCLUDED. I WILL, HOWEVER, BASED ON THE GROUNDS THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK WITH US AND ALSO ALL CONTENTIOUS ISSUES DISCUSSED BEFORE THE COMMENCEMENT OF THIS TRANSACTION. YOU MAY ALSO DISCUSS YOUR PERCENTAGE BEFORE WE START TO WORK. AS SOON AS I HEAR FROM YOU, I WILL GIVE YOU ALL NECESSARY DETAILS AS TO HOW WE INTEND TO CARRY OUT THE WHOLE TRANSACTION. PLEASE, DO NOT ENTERTAIN ANY FEARS, AS ALL NECESSARY MODALITIES ARE IN PLACE, AND I ASSURE YOU OF ALL SUCCESS AND SAFETY IN THIS TRANSACTION.
PLEASE, THIS TRANSACTION REQUIRES ABSOLUTE CONFIDENTIALITY AND YOU WOULD BE EXPECTED TO TREAT IT AS SUCH UNTIL THE FUNDS ARE MOVED OUT OF THIS COUNTRY.
PLEASE, YOU WILL ALSO IGNORE THIS LETTER AND RESPECT OURTRUST IN YOU BY NOT EXPOSING THIS TRANSACTION, EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT INTERESTED.
I LOOK FORWARDS TO WORKING WITH YOU.
BARRISTER KAREEM UCHI
Attn Mr. Sloan,
I am Barrister Ubah Kenneth Solicitor. I am the Personal Attorney to Mr. William Sloan, a national of your country, who used to work with Shell Development Company in Nigeria. On the 21st of April 1999, my client, his wife and their three children were involved in a car accident along Sagbama Express Road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy to locate any of my clients extended relatives, this has also proved unsuccessful. After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to trace his relatives over the Internet, to locate any member of his family but of no avail, hence I contacted you. I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and property left behind by my client before they get confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this huge deposits were lodged. Particularly, the Bank where the deceased had an account valued at about 9 million dollars has issued me a notice to provide the next of kin or have the account confiscated within the next ten official working days.
Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased since you are from the same country so that the proceeds of this account valued at $9 million dollars can be paid to you and then you and me can share the money. 55% to me and 40% to you, while 5% should be for expenses or tax as your government may require, I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this dealt through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law. Please get in touch with me by my email to enable us discuss further.
Esq: Ubah Kenneth.