Alleged leaders of a large transnational Nigerian syndicate called the Black Axe were arrested in early morning raids in Cape Town on Tuesday.
TimesLIVE understands that six leaders of the Black Axe organised crime group’s Cape Town chapter were arrested in a co-ordinated operation involving the Hawks and US law-enforcement authorities.
A seventh member of the group, who is not part of the leadership of the organisation, was also arrested. It is believed that an eighth person affiliated to the Black Axe organisation was also arrested in connection with a separate, but related, case.
The founder of the Black Axe “Cape Town Zone” was among those arrested, TimesLIVE sources said.
The group is believed to be behind hundreds of thousands of “romance scams”. These were allegedly perpetrated by members of the group who used dating sites to meet elderly men and women from around the world who were either widowed or divorced, and scamming them out of their money.
The Sunday Times previously reported on SA victims of the group, some of whom were fleeced out of their life’s savings and even their entire pensions.
The Black Axe members arrested in the early hours of Tuesday morning are also alleged to have scammed companies out of millions of rand using a business email compromise scam.
The scams are sophisticated and have highly organised Nigerian syndicate members, operating mainly from the Table Bay area along Cape Town’s west coast, posing as wealthy pensioners looking for love.
The Neo-Black Movement of Africa is a name interchangeably used for the mafia-style organisation that started on university campuses in Nigeria in the 1970s.
Black Axe positioned itself as an organisation for the liberation of black people around the world. However, it was soon labelled a cult and banned under Nigerian law after it became synonymous with criminal activity globally.
Law-enforcement sources told TimesLIVE that the Black Axe has a strong presence in SA where members often marry South Africans to get residency or citizenship, making it easier to access countries including Canada, the US, the UK and Germany.
The group also has a strong presence in Italy where authorities there arrested several members this year, alleging the group works closely with the Camorra, one of the biggest Italian mafia groups, in other illicit activities including the drug trade and human trafficking.
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)