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National Foods Scammed Off More Than US$800K

National Foods Scammed Off More Than US$800K

Police has recovered R15 million (about US$800 000) and seized a mansion in South Africa from cyber criminals who siphoned millions of United States dollars from bank accounts belonging to National Foods, a local manufacturer and marketer of food products, The Sunday Mail can reveal.

A team of investigators drawn from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and police’s commercial crime department dispatched to South Africa to undertake extraterritorial investigations into the case returned last week after finalising their probe into what could be one of the biggest cybercrimes ever reported in the country.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that the team returned last Wednesday.

“The team has returned from South Africa, but they are yet to brief their commanders on their findings,” he said.

“Once that is done, we will be able to give you details on their findings.”

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A source close to the ongoing investigations told The Sunday Mail that some ofthe money had been traced and recovered.

“The team faced some challenges when it got to South Africa since the paperwork that allows them to execute their mandate was not processed on time,” said the source.

“Since they were already on the ground, they had to forgo undertaking other planned events.

“For example, we understand that they did not manage to interview the foreigners suspected to be behind the hacking and will only rely on what the South African authorities have.

“It was a heavy blow for the team as they were keen to interview them.”

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However, the source said, there are plans for investigators to return to South Africa.

“The fortunate thing is that nearly R15 million is being sent back home after it was recovered,” added the source.

“Another house, bought using the National Foods money, was also seized.

“The team also traced some of the money to a bank in Namibia.

“Another R5 million was found to be in South Africa.”

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The source said investigators also learnt of a local businessman with possible links to the scam, who they are keen to interview.

Natfoods claims it lost US$1,4 million to criminals who hacked into the company’s computer systems and accessed credentials to transfer money from its bank accounts.

The suspects, including two foreigners, engineered an intricate phishing scam that began with the scammers sending an e-mail purportedly from a South African financial institution to the Natfoods’ 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.

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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 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, 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.

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Police had earlier confirmed recovering US$950 000 from the criminals, including properties and cash in South Africa.

A team of investigators was later dispatched to South Africa in pursuit of the matter.

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