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Amsterdam police yesterday arrested another 21 419 scammers from Nigeria and Sierra Leone, in an operation codenamed Spirit 9. The 21 men, all illegal immigrants, will be deported.

The Dutch government is poised to crack down on illegal residence as the immigration service, IND, gains more manpower to track down and deport foreigners.

Sending Nigerian scammers home is easier than prosecuting them. Earlier this year the Dutch Department of Justice suffered bitter defeat in a court case against 13 West African men, who allegedly sent thousands of 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. Only one of them was sentenced - to 12 months.

However, the raids seem to have the desired effect: scam mails sent from the Netherlands are on the decline. Some scam mails with Dutch mobile phone numbers are increasingly sent from Belgium, through the network of Belgacom. Other 419ers seem to have escaped to Italy, where the majority of 419 scam mails seem to be originating from. ®

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