Swedish fraud victim regains swindled funds awarded from Seychelles Supreme Court
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Supreme Court of Seychelles has returned funds to a Swedish victim allegedly swindled in a typical ‘boiler room’ scam.
According to a press communiqué released by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) this week, funds from the bank account of a company registered in the Seychelles, named Asia Pacific Group International Limited, were frozen after the FIU was made aware of the fraudulent activity.
The boiler room scam is named for its unauthorized offshore investment brokers who are often crammed into cramped, dark office spaces, who use a high-pressure telesales technique to con potential investors into buying shares that are either non-existent or so worthless they are impossible to sell.
The fraudsters often set up a company in one country, operate from another country and target victims in a third country, thus making it difficult to track them down and prosecute them.
In this case, which the FIU investigated across five European states, Indonesia, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Seychelles, victims from wealthy countries were targeted, using front companies and websites with similar names to other well-known companies.
The FIU says the scammers opened bank accounts all over the world and forged share certificates and cheques to dupe investors.
The Swedish victim, named by the FIU as Mr. Pettersson, received telephone calls from an offshore company Guardian International Limited registered in the BVI.
“They first sold him shares which rapidly fell in value and then convinced him that he could recover the money he had lost by transferring the shares into other investments,” said the FIU statement. “They advised that the proposed share transfer would require additional finance but would guarantee returns. Mr Pettersson was instructed to transfer the additional funds to an account in the Seychelles.”
Reportedly disappointed with the returns on the transferred shares, he decided to sell his shares, but he was told that to do so he would have to pay another $24,000 in tax.
To entice Pettersson to make the final payment, the scammers emailed him an image of a cheque issued from their Seychelles-registered bank account as proof of the payment he would receive back once his shares had been sold.
When the cheque failed to reach Pettersson, he realized that he had been the victim of fraud. When questioned, the Seychelles bank concerned confirmed that no cheque book had ever been issued to the account as the doctored image made it appear.
Already alerted to the fraud that had taken place, the FIU began to investigate the matter with its counterpart tax and anti-money laundering authorities in the jurisdictions concerned.
“Because our anti money laundering laws allow the FIU to freeze suspect funds before the monies can be removed by fraudsters using internet banking, it was possible to prevent the fraudsters from clearing out the bank account,” said the FIU. “The law further allows that at any time when assets are frozen in Seychelles, persons with interests in the assets can come forward to validate and claim their interests.”
The FIU has said that the Supreme Court ruling, the latest in a string of successfully-prosecuted financial forfeiture cases under the Proceeds of Crime Act, sends a stern warning to potential fraudsters wishing to conduct illegal activities in the jurisdiction.
“The decision by the Supreme Court to return funds to the victim sends yet another important signal to the international community that Seychelles will not tolerate the abuse of its financial services sector by organised crime,” read the FIU’s statement.
The FIU says it now intends to use the experience it has gained from these cases to focus on the forfeiture of criminally-obtained assets of domestic drug traffickers in Seychelles.