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SA hair salon used as conduit in Natfoods cash scam

by Staff reporter
04 Jun 2023 at 08:30hrs | Views
A SOUTH AFRICAN hair salon was reportedly used as a conduit to transfer part of the money that was siphoned from National Foods.

Scammers hacked into the company's computer system and accessed credentials to transfer money from its bank accounts.

A Congolese and a Ghanaian living in South Africa have since been identified as suspects in the scam.

In its report to police, National Foods indicated that it lost US$1,4 million, although sources had earlier claimed the firm lost US$6 million.

Out of the US$1,4 million, police said US$950 000 had been recovered to date.

"I can confirm that a Congolese and Ghanaian were involved. Investigations are still ongoing, with the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) working together on the matter.

"We will reveal the names of the two as the investigations progress," said police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi in a statement.

"Reference is made to the current investigations being made by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in connection with the hacking of the National Foods email system that occurred in October 2022.

"The Zimbabwe Republic Police, as promised, clarifies that engagements with National Foods have since revealed that a total of US$1,4 million was stolen through the hacking of the company's email system.

"Investigations are underway, and a total of US$950 000 has since been recovered. This includes properties and cash in South Africa.

"The suspects have been identified, and they are being tracked by the police.

"More details will be released in due course."

According to sources, part of the money was transferred into a hair salon's account, purportedly for payment of services rendered.

"Millions in rands have been transferred into a hair salon account, as if they were paying for services rendered.

"Detectives are trying to crack the link between the two foreigners and their connection to Zimbabwe," said one source privy to the goings-on.

The suspects engineered an intricate phishing scam that began with the scammers sending an e-mail, purportedly from a South African financial institution, to National Foods' finance manager.

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending e-mails disguised as electronic messages from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords. Upon opening the e-mail, Natfoods' computer system was corrupted.

This gave the fraudsters access to the company's computer system, including authorisation to process financial transactions.

The scammers then began instructing the firm's banks to deposit money into their own bank accounts in South Africa using the finance administrator's credentials.

Law-enforcement agents have since obtained a High Court order in South Africa to freeze bank accounts holding part of the loot, pending investigations.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), with assistance from its counterparts in South Africa, have also obtained a seizure order to freeze properties suspected to have been bought using proceeds of the crime.

The South African AFU has since seized a fleet of top-of-the-range vehicles and a plush Johannesburg mansion, pending further investigations.

They are also following leads pointing to the involvement of Zimbabweans.

As investigations into the matter intensify, an investigating team led by a high-ranking official from the NPA is said to be in South Africa to conduct further inquiries into the case.

Source - The Sunday Mail
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