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September 30, 2011

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Black paper, 'potion' used in scam

A foreigner who pretended to bring illicit funds into the country with the help of a "secret potion" swindled more than 100,000 yuan (US$15,640) from a Chinese woman by charging "custom clearance fees" and was arrested on fraud charges, prosecutors said yesterday.

The victim, surnamed Zhang, called police in February to report being defrauded by two Nigerian men.

Zhang, 39, a company senior manager, had a relationship with a foreigner called Peter through a dating website. Last February, Peter told Zhang he had hired a British diplomat to bring US$10 million into China, and he had to pay US$7,600 as "custom clearance fees" for each batch. He asked Zhang to receive the money and pay the fee since he was not in China.

Zhang received a call from the "diplomat" telling her to go to a hotel and meet two men named Tony and James to get the money. Zhang paid US$7,600 to them. Tony opened the delivery package, which contained bundles of black paper, and he told Zhang she would need to use a special potion to wash the black paper into US banknotes.

The next day, Zhang paid US$7,600 for 12 more bundles of "money." But Tony said the potion had gone bad. Zhang received a text message from the "diplomat," who asked her to pay US$45,000 to repair the potion. Zhang then called police after Tony threatened to hurt her family if she didn't pay.

Tony and James were detained, and James was later expelled from China. Peter and the "diplomat" are still at large, prosecutors said.


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