Three people have been arrested and charged by South African police over the attempted fraudulent sale of a home in WA.
Two Nigerian men and a South African woman were arrested in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The arrests follow a five-month investigation involving the Major Fraud Squad, the Australian Federal Police and South African authorities.
It will be alleged that the Mandurah real estate agency managing the Greenfields property on behalf of its South African owner, received an email from the offenders in mid-February 2014 pretending to be the real owner and successfully changing the contact email address the agency had on file.
Two weeks later, a request to sell the property was received; agreements were signed with forged signatures and exchanged electronically and the property was then put on the market.
It will be further alleged that, in March this year, an offer was made on the property and accepted by the pretend owner.
As a result of the offer, documents were sent by the agency to the real owner’s address in South Africa by post.
While the email address had been changed, the physical address on file was not. The real owner alerted the agent that the sale was not authorised and the Police were contacted.
Those charged are: Asanda Zimkhitha Cwayi, 28, a South African woman, Magnus Ikechukwu Kamah, 38, a Nigerian man and Nbubusi Sunday Okeke, 34, also a Nigerian man. They have been charged with fraud, forgery and uttering and are due to appear in a South African court today.
In August 2013, Ntuen Promise Ekenmini was arrested in Nigeria over a separate fraud attempt when he collected documents related to a supposed settlement of a home in Falcon, which was owned by a South African.
It’s alleged Ekenmeni used a fake driver’s licence in the name of the real owner as identification when collecting the documents at an international courier office in Lagos.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw of the Major Fraud Squad said the recent arrests were another victory in the fight against international fraud.
“This successful outcome could not have been made possible without the excellent support and cooperation of the AFP and local authorities in South Africa,” Det Snr Sgt Blackshaw said.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said real estate and settlement agents must remain vigilant.
“It is an essential part of the identity verification procedures for any change of contact details by an owner to be confirmed by the real estate agency by sending a notification to the original addresses, both physical and electronic, that are on file," she said.
"This will alert the real owners at an early stage if their details are being changed fraudulently.
“This confirmation should occur before any documents are sent which could give criminals even more information about the real owners and the property they are trying to sell. Requests to change details by owners of WA property living in Africa should raise a red flag and warrant special attention to property managers.
“There have been two successful and now six attempted real estate frauds reported to us in the past six years and all except for one of those cases have involved owners in South Africa. The other owner resided in Nigeria."