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2 New Zealanders in court over Nigerian 419 scam

- nzherald

(Thursday, November 4, 2004)

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[ One of the victims, a former senior partner in a large Auckland law firm, lost $1.17 million, and has since been declared bankrupt. ]

Elva Medhurst A 78-year-old Howick woman and her 65-year-old niece are facing charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office over a $2 million Nigerian investment scam. Elva Mary Medhurst is accused of two charges of theft by misappropriation with her niece, Patricia Lenine Mabel Walsh, also of Howick. Walsh faces a further 87 charges including false pretences, forgery, and uttering false documents. Typically "Nigerian advance fee frauds", as the SFO terms them, involve a person in Nigeria sending a stream of emails or faxes giving elaborate details of vast amounts of money tied up in a Swiss bank account - funds that can only be released if some money is paid up-front. In the Auckland District Court yesterday, SFO prosecutor Dawn Roscoe told Judge Simon Lockhart, QC, that Walsh defrauded eight individuals or couples and sent their money to Nigeria in the unrealistic expectation by Walsh of a US$28 million ($40.9 million) return. One of the victims, a former senior partner in a large Auckland law firm, lost $1.17 million, and has since been declared bankrupt. All the victims have name suppression at this stage. Judge Lockhart was told that at one stage in June 2002 Walsh and a man travelled to Amsterdam where they met two men, Kingsley and Johan, at the Nigerian consulate and were shown a box which they were told contained US$28 million. But they could not take the cash, as Johan had to go to London to sort out another contract, this time for $50 million.

Ms Roscoe said that most of the complainants had been involved in a failed property project in St Stephens Ave initiated by Walsh in the late 1990s, and had lost large sums of money. Walsh and her husband suffered substantial losses and were declared bankrupt. Ms Roscoe said that Walsh told the complainants that she had come up with a rescue package for investors in the St Stephens project and needed money to establish a trust for that purpose. She also said that a US trust wanted to set up a trust to distribute funds to people in need in New Zealand. Ms Roscoe said that Walsh also claimed to be doing the legwork for a Christian benefactor in the US and the UK who assisted people who got into difficulty through no fault of their own.

The victims were promised that their losses in the St Stephens project would be recouped and they would double their investment. The money was needed for legal expenses, bank fees and taxes. Ms Roscoe said that having obtained the funds from the complainants, Walsh sent the money to Nigeria. Ms Roscoe told the court that Walsh presented the complainants with forged documents to persuade them to give her money. "Some of the complainants queried the validity of Mrs Walsh's requests and in response she provided them with documents forged by her to support her requests for funds. Reassured by the forged documents, the complainants continued giving Mrs Walsh money." She made no mention that money was going to Nigeria. The two charges jointly faced by Walsh and Medhurst allege that money paid by two of the complainants was to remain in the Jabeez trust account at the ASB, to be returned after a month. The money was withdrawn by Walsh and Medhurst, a trustee of the trust, and was not returned to the providers. Walsh is represented by Mark Edgar and Jeremy Bioletti and Medhurst by Shane Tait.

African frauds

Typically involve numerous emails or faxes from a person giving intricate details of vast amounts of money tied up in Swiss bank accounts. The target is told the funds can be released only if some money is paid upfront.

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