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British kidnap victim case serves as warning anti-corruption group says

Letters requesting help to transfer funds out of Nigeria are an invitation to participate in a criminal conspiracy - Jeremy Pope, Executive Director, Transparency International

Anyone would have a degree of sympathy for the former deputy mayor of Northampton, UK who was held at gunpoint in Johannesburg last week.

"The ordeal was clearly horrific, but the British media has been far too willing to accept that this was a case in which an innocent businessman was duped," says Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog.

The reports have failed to disclose the precise details of this case, but it seems that the businessman, Jozef Raca, took at face value an offer by scam artists to help them defraud the Nigerian government or some other entity to whose funds they claimed to have access.

"There are thousands of these letters and emails floating round the world, and we have yet to see one which was not obviously an invitation to participate in a criminal conspiracy," said Jeremy Pope, London-based executive director of Transparency International.

"This should serve as a cautionary tale to all those participating in illegal letter-scam operations," he said. "We would like to see all those who take up these lucrative and blatantly criminal offers investigated and prosecuted, not extended tea and sympathy by an unquestioning media," he added.

"Mr Raca may have been an honest man genuinely taken in by a surprise letter from total strangers inexplicably offering him a large share in a fortune, but if so, the press reports have palpably failed to do him justice," he concluded.

In Britain the national Criminal Intelligence Service has asked that the letters and emails be sent to them at PO box 8000,
London SE11 5EN.

For any press enquiries please contact

Jana Kotalik (Berlin)
Tel: +49-30 3438 2061

Susan Côté-Freeman (London)
Tel: +44 207 610 1400