Dark Side
Metro Police Scam Exposed
By Lee Rondganger, Pretoria News 27/4/07
Apr 30, 2007, 13:36

But despite an internal and SA Police Service investigation, the officials are still in their jobs - and may still be continuing with the scam.


The metro police asked newspapers to downplay the matter because, they say, their probe is still in progress and they don't want it to be compromised.


Forensic investigators at Nedbank and Absa have uncovered massive corruption within the Joburg metro police's fines collection department, which has been taking place for the past seven months.


Investigators have discovered that officials at the fines' collection desk have been using the details of international credit cards to pay hundreds of local fines owed by individual motorists and taxi owners.


Since September 15 last year, they have swiped at least R75 800 from four international credit cards alone and investigators have said this is just the "tip of the iceberg".


According to investigators, the metro officials are working with an outside syndicate, who is supplying them with the credit card details of tourists who visit South Africa.


The syndicate gets the credit card details of the tourists from staff working at hotels or lodges.


A tourist making a hotel booking from overseas provides the hotel with a credit card number, the expiry date and CCV code (the three-digit security code printed on the back of the card) to make a reservation.


These hotel staff then steal these details and pass the information on to the syndicate, which, in turn, passes it on the metro police.


The metro police officials would then use these details to process manual transactions, in what is called a "card not present transaction" to pay off the traffic fines.


With these credit card details, the officials were allegedly wiping off vast amounts of traffic fines incurred by various people, including businessmen, taxi owners and individual motorists.


Ashley Hanscombe, a card forensic investigator at Nedbank, who has been investigating the syndicate, said their operation was simple.


"Say you have a R1 000 fine, all you have to do is go to one of these metro officials, pay them R500 and they will use the international credit card to pay off your fine. They would take a cut and give some money to the syndicate," he said.


The officials' activities were picked up by the metro police's anti-corruption unit five weeks ago. A member of the unit then called Hanscombe.


He and investigators from Absa supplied the metro police with all the evidence from overseas' credit card clients.


Despite providing the metro police with enough evidence to arrest the officials, nothing has been done and the officials continue to work at the collection desk.


Because the metro police fines' collections pay point is an Absa merchant, Absa has already reversed the R75 800 known to have been fraudulently taken, resulting in a financial loss for the city.


Manfredi Di Cinpio, who lives in London, was in South Africa for one week at the beginning of this month and when he returned home, he found out that he had paid for 10 traffic fines to the JMPD.


The total charged to his credit card for fines was R25 800.


He was first hit on February 9, when the fraudsters swiped R3 800 from him in two hours.


Three days later, and within the space of five hours, R7 300 was taken during four transactions. On February 13, the fraudsters hit him for the single biggest amount, when they debited him for R12 900.


Speaking from Germany yesterday, Di Cinpio said he had not realised the fraud had taken place until after his second statement had arrived.


"I was very surprised by the transactions because I know I don't have any traffic fines in Joburg. I don't know how they could have done it because my credit card never left me.


"It's shocking, but my bank has informed me that I will be refunded," he said.


JMPD spokesperson Inspector Edna Mamonyane said it was regrettable that the media knew about the scam as investigations were at an advanced stage.


Source: Ocnus.net 2007