Mon, 08 Mar 1999

Five African men arrested for scam

JAKARTA (JP): Police detectives have arrested five African men for attempting to cheat a Bekasi businessman by claiming they could duplicate U.S. dollar notes with a black box.

City Police detectives chief Col. Alex Bambang Riatmodjo told reporters on Saturday that the five, four Liberians and one Cameroon national, were arrested on Thursday night at a hotel in the Ancol amusement park in North Jakarta.

Police seized the box but failed to find any counterfeit notes on the men, he said.

"We're still interrogating them. The suspects might have committed the scam on other victims," the officer said.

The five are identified as George Toe, Asiq Qai, Maghang Zaharim, Alexander, and Fidel, all aged between 30 and 34.

According Alex, the arrests were made based on information given by the officer's friend Basili, 40, a Bekasi businessman. The officer said the two had been close friends for years, since Alex was chief of Bekasi Police.

Basili, owner of a paper production company in Bekasi, told Alex he met the five men in the hotel lobby, where they proposed a business deal to him. Alex said the deal involved the duplication of U.S. dollar notes.

"The suspects offered the victim a chance to take part in the business," the officer recalled.

The men allegedly asked Basili to provide US$1,500 in cash so they could conduct their scheme.

Basili followed the men to their room on the fifth floor of the hotel, where he was shown a black box, Alex said.

"For the first try, you just provide $1,500 and we'll double the value of your money," Alex quoted one of the suspects as telling Basili.

The businessman, who was by then suspicious of the deal, promised the men he would provide the money, Alex said.

"Instead of fulfilling the demand, the businessman, who has known me for quite a long time, then contacted me," Alex said.

The detectives chief then deployed a number of his men to arrest the suspects.

Alex did not reveal if the police had examined the black box to see if it could actually duplicate the notes.

The five suspects, some of them in tears, denied the police accusations on Saturday, saying they were not guilty and had been wrongfully arrested, Alex said.

They insisted they had simply offered Basili a business deal.

They did not elaborate on what kind of business they had in mind. (jun)