Cyber Crime: The Secrets behind the Nouveau Riche Class in Kampala, Nairobi, Lagos, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dubai

Cyber crime on the rise in Uganda

The year was 2008, we were running our then two-year old startup that was churning out web application after another, on top of building websites and providing auxiliary services. Condemned to a country and a population that appreciates less of our work, we became desperate and opted to print flyers and posters advertising our web design, hosting and domain registration services in order to boost our cash flow.

We ensured that these posters are present at each cyber cafe around town because we believed that cyber cafes presented a higher chance of netting interested customers. What we did not foresee was that the interested customers included the ‘bad guys’. In many parts of the world, the ‘bad guys’ can also be referred to as Nigerians (pun intended).

It was not long before we started receiving phone calls from customer prospects and this really excited us and made us believe that our new strategy was effective. One day, a prospect called our office and made an appointment with my colleague to meet somewhere in Kansanga. The venue of the meeting was a cyber cafe! They actually did meet and he accepted our asking price for designing his website. Later, my colleague narrated to me the proceedings of the meeting and how ‘good’ the prospect was. In fact he had made a 50% cash deposit for the work to begin.

Our prospect-cum-customer was by the names Jeff Austin and was the ‘Regional Representative’ of a Logistics and Securities Company whose headquarters were in Bangkok-Thailand. He had just given us the ‘honour ‘of designing the website of an international Logistics and Securities company. He wanted the website, complete with a tracking facility to enable their customers to track the movement of their cargo using Air Way Bill or tracking numbers.

Many questions were running through my head. Chief among the questions was why task of developing the company website of a global logistics company would be entrusted with a mere Regional Representative somewhere in Eastern Africa? (Am not saying that Regional Representatives are small people, but putting into perspective, I expected the CEO and the senior management team in Bangkok to have a keen interest). Secondly, why would the company exist and have an international presence before creating a website (remember this was not a redesign of an existing website)? In brief, this transaction had hallmarks of mischief and fraud written all over it.

After listening to the narrative about our new client, I asked my colleague what the nationality of Mr. Jeff Austin was. My colleague could not put a finger to it, but suspected he could be from West Africa. I tried to convince him that the man must be a Nigerian, but we could not make a conclusion. I took personal interest in the matter by following the usage of the website.

My colleague handled the design and development of the website for the Logistics and Securities Company and hosted it on one of our servers. On completion of the work, I started a clandestine surveillance operation on the website and what was being handled on it. After three months in operation, my colleague hinted that the man that used to move around Kansanga on foot was now cruising a ‘new’ Toyota Premio car. I felt that it was about time, I now carried out an analysis on the data that I had been collecting on this ‘client’ of ours. My findings shocked me.

This company was handling cargo of clients from different parts of the world. The source countries of the cargo included Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, etc. All the cargo would transit through Uganda, Dubai or USA en-route to its Destination. All the cargo was not reaching the destination. It was always ending up either at the UN Facility at Dubai International Airport or the ‘FBI Anti-Terrorism Unit’ at JFK International Airport in New York.

Armed with these facts, I moved to my next step of investigation, I ran through all the e-mail conversations that this Logistics and Securities Company was having with its clients. I was shocked, terrified and mind boggled at how evil people can be. The ‘company’ would keep manipulating the clients to part with small amounts of $2000, $3000, $5000 in well-choreographed stories of helping them to transport their precious minerals through the international airports and also to bribe the UN officials at the UN facility in Dubai or the FBI operatives at the FBI Anti-Terrorism Task force in JFK Airport. The stories were always taking a new twist. They were never ending; always crafted to make the client/victim believe that the current twist is the final twist and s/he finally lands his/her hands on the cargo.

I made the conclusion that Mr. Jeff Austin was a Nigerian who had hidden his Surname. As fate would have it, he appeared at our office to request that the phone numbers on the company website be changed to a new set of numbers. I called him aside and told him plainly that he was a fraudster and we had to Part Company. I advised him to locate another host for his website or procure a private server where we can transfer his website. Jeff denied being a fraudster. He said that he was doing ‘genuine’ business.

When I reconstructed for him the entire criminal matrix and placed him in his position in the matrix basing on the knowledge I had acquired from analyzing the e-mail communication and the cargo-tracking data on the website, he melted and said, “My broda, I am not a criminal. We are only righting the wrongs of slave trade and colonialism by taking away some money from some stupid Europeans and Arabs. They are greedy people and we are taking advantage of that.” I had never in my life felt that you can repay evil for evil. Here I was learning that some Africans have bestowed upon themselves the task of making Europeans, Americans and Arabs pay for the historical evils they visited upon our forefathers.

Six months after the initial contact, Jeff Austin was cruising a Toyota Lexus and he told us that he had given the Toyota Premio to one of his girlfriends. He had obtained a server elsewhere and transferred his website. Some of his victims had tried to contact us and I tried to help them by ensuring that Mr. Jeff Austin is apprehended by Police, but he bribed his way out of the Police Cells. He also tried to bribe me in vain. He assured me that the Police is part of the racket and that I cannot fight them.

Together with his colleagues in the racket, they issued death threats to me, but I assured them that am not moved nor scared because I was bigger and more sophisticated than they thought. The Police detective from Kabalagala Police Station who was their immediate contact in Police had all his furniture and electronic needs at home catered for by the Nigerians ‘business partners’ of his. I still see Mr. Jeff Austin enjoying himself around Kampala and has even opened up a bar around Kansanga.

I took time to study and understand their criminal network and discovered that it is an international racket with people of all nationalities. It operates a multi-national well-co-ordinated and oiled scheme. For instance, The ‘Gold Miner’ can be located in South Africa and he is the one that will recommend the logistics and securities company to the customer/victim.

The logistics company may be ‘operational’ in Uganda, but with Head Quarters on another continent. The cargo gets stuck in Dubai and there is a ‘white’ Engineer from the United Nations facility at DXB to help with stuck cargo. These guys also perform rituals and are heavily involved in voodoo in a bid to lure and ‘confuse’ their victims. To them, morals and ethics have no place in today’s world. The end justifies the means. They tell you that if politicians steal their way to wealth, Police men do the same, why should their ordinary mortals wallow in poverty.

They have chosen to work ‘smart’. They drive posh rides with custom number plates around our cities. They sleep in the posh suburbs of our cities. They cannot explain the background of their wealth. They love women and soft life. They claim that hard work is what has made them successful. They have average computing knowledge. They are so cunning. They are the nouveau riche in town. THEY ARE CRIMINALS.

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