The ‘Nigerian fraud’ in Benin
Dr. Thomas Yayi Boni was hailed as a champion of economic liberalization and free markets on his 2006 election victory over the aged incumbent Mathieu Kerekou, a former Marxist deeply distrusted by the West.
Though a political novice at home in Novo Porto and Cotonou, Boni had impeccable credentials in the two capitals that really matter to the French-speaking West African nation – Paris and Washington D.C. After earning a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Paris, he served as director of the the West African Development Bank (Banque Ouest Africaine de Developpement, BOAD). Boni was just the right man to bring market-oriented reforms to a sluggish tropical nation where the average daily income is only $2.
Instead of a booming economy, the former banker is now presiding over a burgeoning financial scandal after 130,000 citizens were swindled out of their meager savings in a fraudulent investment plan. Investment Consulting and Computing Services (ICC) promised gullible investors a hefty 20% to 50% interest rate. Since late last year, jilted investors have claimed that $130 million simply disappeared in a Ponzi scheme, prompting massive demonstrations in July.
Heads started to roll with the house arrests of Chief Prosecutor George Amoussou, who blocked a police investigation, and Interior Minister Armand Zinzindohoue, accused of providing bodyguards to ICC executives to protect them from angry creditors.
President Boni is himself implicated due to his televised appearances with ICC managers and two meetings with the company director at the presidential palace. Adding to suspicions of insider connections, the ICC donated large sums to evangelical churches and Christian charities. Boni’s official biography identifies him as a former Muslim converted to evangelical Protestantism.
Fifty out of 83 members of Parliament have signed a letter demanding the president’s resignation, a step that would strip him of immunity from prosecution. Boni’s once-avid supporters in the American and French embassies have kept out of sight, leaving their former protege to twist in the wind.
The country of 8.7 million inhabitants, lodged between Nigeria, Togo and Burkino Faso, is primarily dependent on agriculture. Although the land is fertile and humid, widespread corruption has retarded rural development. For all its rich soil, Benin imports about 15 percent of its food, similar to much less-endowed neighbors in sub- Saharan Africa. To “modernize” Benin’s rural economy, Boni has fostered an ambitious program to turn 3 million hectares of farmland and forest into monoculture palm oil plantations to make biofuel for export to Europe. If the ICC scandal serves as the business model, the palm oil scheme may well be a boondoggle in the boondocks.
If bankers could wreck Wall Street overnight, how hard can it be to wipe out Benin? Aside from his involvement in the ongoing financial collapse, Boni’s moment of fame came with his 2000 presidential campaign slogan: “If people want to change their future, they must first change themselves.”
Thanks to get-rich-quick dreams, the poor Beninese are now poorer. That, at least, is change.
“We would not be standing here with you if you and your government was (sic) not committed to your people.” – President George Bush, on receiving the Grand Cross Order of Benin, February 2008
The former French colony of Dahomey became independent in 1960.Dahomey was renamed the Republic of Benin in 1975.Before the 1899 takeover by France, Dahomey was ruled by slave traders known as the Fon. The capital is Porto Novo and the government seat is Cotonou. Benin has no relation to the former African kingdom of Benin, which was located in Nigeria. The main Christian sects are Catholicism and the charismatic Celestine Church. The “Nigerian fraud letter” network was quick to seize on the earliest signs of the ICC collapse, as shown in the email below, courtesy of Anti-Fraud International.
From: Mr. Michael David < firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: CONTACT MONEY GRAM OFFICE OF YOUR FUND. Date: Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 2:04 PM
Attention:Beneficiary. This is to inform you that we have arranged your payment of ($850,000.00) Eight hundread and fifty Thousand united state dollars in atm payment card on behalf of the Federal Republic of Benin Government,Under the co-operation of the new civilian Head of State, President DR. BONI YAYI And the Governor of Central Bank Of Benin, Mr Philippe-Henry Dacoury-Tabley held a meeting last week concerning your payment, about your compensetion funds.you are listed and approved for this payments as one of the scammed victims to be sent to you through Money Gram money transfer payment.
Your payment will be sending to you by Money Gram, the amount you will receive per is $8,000- The minister trust funds of Republic of Benin Government will send you the currently standards track details you need to pick up your ($8,000.00) payment by Money Gram, you will receive every day till you receive the $850,000.00, now no need to send you this atm card because you cannot get the atm card due to the atm master card contain large money on it.
The director administrator trust funds have already signed your payment,kindly contact the below person who is in position to release your payment by Money Gram per $8,000.00 a day.Contact Person———Dr,Christian Anderson, Mrs. Joyce Maduome , Tel; +229-939-86-838. Money Gram Money Transfer E-mail: (email@example.com)
The financial Money Gram payment center has been mandated to issue out your payment and you have to stop any further communication with any other person(s) or office(s) to avoid any hitches in receiving your payment. Note that the administrator payment need this details from you to process your payment:
Note that if you did not send him Your passport with the completely information,he will not release the payment to you because he has to be sure that it is you.
Comply with Dr,Christian Anderson. now because as soon as you sent this required details to him he will start sending your payment by Money Gram. Email; (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mr, Michael David. Tel +229, 998-95-28-02
Forign Operation Manager Money Gram Office Republic of Benin Government