on from Wednesday’s post on Gold Scams, Kid Dynamite drew my attention to the story of
one-time NBA star Dikembe Mutombo’s
involvement in a “proposed deal to extract more than a thousand
pounds of gold from his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, amidst the
core of the conflict mineral trade, and sell the haul for more than $10
Forbes reports that the “money
generated was to be split between him, Nigerian-born Houston energy mogul Kase Lawal and Third World
mineral trader Carlos St. Mary.
deal ultimately went haywire, with the gold ending up in Congolese custody,
$4 million in the hands of Eddy Michel Malonga, the
supposed real owner of the stash, and another $6.6 million of Lawal’s money in cash in the pockets of General Bosco Ntaganda, a local warlord
under indictment from the International Criminal Court, whose militia
controls mining operations in parts of eastern Congo.”
For those interested in the soap opera-style story, see the article at the Houston
Chronicle’s website. They
report that as the deal progressed, there was a request for “40 percent
up front” – always a classic sign of a scam –
upon which “Lawal reluctantly
turned over almost $4 million in cash, [bad move] but only
after getting a certificate of ownership [issued by whom and
proving what?] and having the gold placed in a
secure customs warehouse in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. A week later, Malonga — and the gold — disappeared. The
purported customs facility was a sham.”
All of these scams use the hook of “discounted gold” to tempt
people by appealing to their greed. None seem to ask why would
anyone sell gold below spot price. This was part of a scam last year
as reported by Emirates
“several tons of gold imported into the UAE by traders and investors
turned out to be fake on closer inspection…”
and quoting the Managing Director of Emirates Gold as saying “The traders
got greedy. They thought they were getting gold at a discounted rate.”
The article goes on to describe the typical scam:
“African gold merchants claim to be in possession of large quantities
of gold dust or gold bars, which they offer to sell at below market prices.
The would-be buyer is made to send money for travel of the seller, for
insurance, for shipping and for refinery assays before they would receive
anything of any value. Investors are shown samples, which may be original
gold. But when the consignment reaches the port, it will be only mud or sand.
… The seller can walk away at any point with virtually no risk of being
caught as all contacts are via anonymous free webmail accounts accessed from
Internet cafes and via prepaid mobile phones.”
You may think who would fall for these scams, but The Perth Mint receives
these sorts of requests with unfortunate regularity. The scammers never
contact us directly (they know we know too much about the gold market to fall
for the scam) but rather contact another person who then contacts us to buy
or sell gold (at a discount, of course).
We have had these requests come from all types of people, often suburban
accountants or lawyers, with greed in their eyes that they are going to
receive 1% of a $100 million deal just for facilitating a deal. A few
don’t respond well when we tell them it is a scam and suggest that they
ask themselves why would a legitimate buyer with $100 million need to pay a
suburban accountant $1 million to act as an intermediary when the buyer could
just come to us directly.
To give you an idea of what these scams look like, below are three example
emails we have received. The first demonstrates five classic signs of a gold
scam – anonymous email (no corporate website we can check up on), overly
formal language, ridiculously large amounts, representing someone else (never
the actual buyer themselves) and mentions of letters of credit. Calling us the Australian
Mint doesn’t help.
Friday, 10 February 2006 1:02 AM
Subject: Purchase of gold,silver,
platinum coins and bars
Good day Mr. yyy:
your contact information from the Royal Australian Mint website.
I represent an international firm that is interested in purchasing bullions,
bars and coins. Specifically, we are interested in purchasing:
$ 1, 000, 000, 000.00 (1 billion) in gold;
$ 1, 000, 000, 000.00 (1 billion) in silver ; and
$ 1, 000, 000, 000.00 (1 billion) platinum.
To secure the purchase, we will issue Letters of Credit that are secured by
US. Government Treasury securities and by gold.
What are the procedures for entering into a contract with the Australian Mint
for the purchase of the above-referenced precious metals?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
This next one has a few more classic signs – use of “au-metal”,
“buyer’s mandate” and “swiss
procedure” to make it sound more impressive and professional to the
average person. Professionals never use those terms, so a dead giveaway
Friday, 6 October 2000 14:34
PURCHASE OF AU-METAL
TO: M/S CORPORATION.
KIND ATTN: MR.yyy.
WE WOULD LIKE TO INTRODUCE OURSELVES AS EXPORT-IMPORT MARKETING REPRESENTATIVE
WE HAVE VISITED YOUR WEB-SITE AND HAVE COME TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE ONE OF
BIGGEST PRODUCERS OF AU-METAL IN THE WORLD.
WE ARE NEXT TO BUYER'S MANDATE HOLDERS/BUYERS THROUGH THE WORLD WHO ARE
INTERESTED TO PURCHASE AU-METAL OF YOUR AVAILABLE QUANTITY. OUR BUYERS FOLLOW
UP SWISS PROCEDURE. IF YOU HAVE YOUR PROCEDURE, PLEASE INFORM US SO THAT WE
COULD DISCUSS WITH OUR BUYERS.
ALSO WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHETHER YOU ARE ALSO A SELLER OR ONLY THE PRODUCEER ?
IF YOU ARE ONLY A PRODUCER AND NOT A SELLER, PLEASE INFORM THE SELLERS WHO
ARE KNOWN TO YOU.
WE AWAIT YOUR REPLY PLEASE.
THANKS AND BEST REGARDS,
This last one was forward to us by the “mark” as proof it was a
legitimate deal. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be giving
some guy with a yahoo.fr email address my residential address and passport,
no matter how much his “prcie is
Monday, 9 June 2008 7:19 PM
From: Chief xxx.
From: Chief xxx.
Chairman & president of
Abidjan-cote d' Ivoire.
Attn: The Director,
It is my pleasure to contact you for the purchase of my products A/U Gold
Dust and uncut diamond which i have accumulated for
sales, if you are ready and willing to buy revert back to me immdiately. Indeed,I
am the right owner and the head of the above named Company. My Company
represents and helps a group of village Gold mining washers to buy locally
from the miners and sell their natural noble metals; mainly A/U Gold Dust and
360 carats of uncut Diamond.
I have at present for 300 kg of Gold dust whose characteristics are as
follows: * Origin: Bokinafaso,Ghana
and Abidjan-cote d'Ivoire in West Africa here, and/or i
also have an offices on the above three countries now while the Quality is :
22 Karats + * Nature: Gold Dust * Rate of purity: 93.06%* pure. Bear in mind
my prcie is cheaper.
If my proposal meets you in a favourable
considerations to purchase, then revert back to me but be informed that if
you really want to have my products either you or your representative must
come to see it physically because i want to build
trust with you as my foreign business partner that can never mess me up
because there are so many bad people today claiming what they can not do.Your telephone / fax
number including your residential or postal addresses is highly needed
including a copy of your passport so that i shall
in reurn send to you mine .