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‘PERHAPS you will be surprised to hear from me. But be assured that my intentions are most noble and honest and what I am offering you is a reputable business transaction.

‘I am the long lost daughter of General Sani Abacha of Nigeria / the exiled niece of President Mobutu of Zaire / the prodigal second cousin of Charles Taylor of Liberia / [insert other relative of a deposed African dictator here]. Before my father / uncle / second cousin / [insert putative relationship here] was toppled from office under tragic circumstances, he had concealed $31 million / $ 57 million / $100 million / [insert startlingly high figure here] in off-shore bank accounts.

‘I and my family are now in exile and we cannot access this money. We are prepared to offer half of this money to you, our reliable business partner. You must first provide us with your bank account details...’

If you have an email account, you’ve had one of these fraudulent messages purporting to be from a wealthy African family-member attempting to swindle you out of your ready money by appealing to your lower nature.

While I’ve been doing this magazine, I’ve received messages from the Kabilas, the Abachas, the Taylors and the Mobutus. The emails amuse me in their imaginative narrative range – and the delete button is always near.

It’s no coincidence, though, that the fantastically wealthy African family names the fraudsters use are those of dictators and warlords grown fat from the profits of oil, diamonds or timber exploitation at the expense of their impoverished populations. Most of these resources ended up as Western consumer goods.

Perhaps it is only justice that now African email fraudsters are attempting to rob us a little in return.

Katharine Ainger for the New Internationalist Co-operative [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]?Subject=NI%20367%20magazine)

New Internationalist issue 367 magazine cover This article is from the May 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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