Charges against Amsterdam 419ers dismissed

Evidence rejected

The Dutch Department of Justice yesterday suffered bitter defeat in a court case against thirteen West African men, who allegedly sent thousands of 419 or advance fraud fee letters through the Amsterdam cable network of UPC. The court ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to link the suspects individually to the scams.

Earlier this year Dutch police arrested 52 Nigerian email scammers at 23 locations in Amsterdam in what was believed to be the biggest raid of its kind. Police confiscated several PCs, mobile phones, false documents and € 50,000 in cash, as well as illegal cable modems provided by a UPC employee who is still at large.

The Dutch fraud squad believed the criminals sent more than 100,000 messages to victims in Japan and the USA, offering them vast profits in return for their help in a dubious business scheme. Some of the suspects were deported immediately by the Dutch alien registration department, while others were kept detained.

Altough Dutch police was able to confiscate several cable modems, mobile phones, PCs with spamming software and an ironing board with a list of names of fake companies and directors, none of the suspects were caught red-handed. And not a single PC was switched on when the police searched their houses. The fact that people were present in these buildings, the court ruled, was insufficient for a conviction.

The Department of Justice has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.

Last year, Dutch prosecutors had more success when the courts sentenced six Nigerian scammers to between 301 days and 4.5 years for email fraud. The evidence in this case provided enough support for a conviction: police had tapped their phones.

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