The Business Council for the Development of Nigeria (BCODEN) held an International Conference on Advance Fee (419) Frauds in New York at the New York Sheraton Hotel 17 SEP 2002.
According to BCODEN, the sponsoring organization, Speakers scheduled at the Conference were top level (policy makers) from within the US and Nigeria including representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria; various Nigerian law enforcement agencies; and various US and other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. It had been indicated that President Obasanjo himself planned to open the Conference if domestic matters permit.
According to BCODEN, the purpose of the Conference was:
"... to be a working session where we can develop instruments to cure
this 419 problem which has been associated with our country..."
Here is a new piece that was published on the Conference. It can also be found in the 19 SEP 2002 entry in our Latest News menu item below:
From the Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper, on the 17 SEP New York conference on 419 sponsored by the Business Council for the Development of Nigeria (BCODEN) assisted by the NigeriaToday website:
CBN to penalise banks over 419 scams
THE sledge hammer may soon descend on any bank operating in the country which covertly or otherwise aids the advance free fraud (419) as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday warned that it will penalise any of them involved in the crime.
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday in New York said the crime has done incalculable damage to Nigeria. Advance free fraud, commonly known as 419, is a crime whereby someone uses deceit to acquire assets from another person.
A deputy governor of the CBN, Dr. Samsudeen Usman, said on Tuesday at a conference on 419 in New York that the apex bank has intensified enforcement of relevant laws requiring banks to prevent the use of their facility to perpetrate 419 or the laundering of money.
If a bank was found to have been careless in allowing a criminal to defraud another person, it would be made to refund the money involved, he added. He said the Central Bank had already made a commercial bank to refund 400,000 dollars that an American was defrauded of.
He said the information provided by the American victim was so detailed that the Central Bank was able to trace the transaction to the bank involved. Although the CBN wanted to return the money to the victim, Usman said the American embassy asked for a deferment until an investigation was carried out on their part.
Usman added that the CBN has established a task force on economic crime and extended its surveillance of 419 activities to other financial institutions such as bureau de change, mortgage institutions and others.
He said the conference on economic crimes begun two years ago by the apex bank, has been institutionalised and will now hold every year as part of efforts to check the crime.
Speakers at the conference expressed the need for more co-operation between Nigerian and U.S. agencies in dealing with the problem that has now assumed greater threat because of the use of internet.
Mr. Jonathan Rusch, an official of the U.S. Department of Justice in charge of fraud prevention said more co-operation was needed between Nigerians and Americans in the effort to stem a crime that has done so much damage to Nigeria's image.
"We welcome the opportunity to co-operate with Nigeria to deal with the crime," he said. Rusch added that a study has shown that e-mails sent out by 419 scammers from Nigeria increased by 900 per cent from 2000 to 2001 alone.
The U.S., he said, has developed tools to investigate and prosecute the crime, including the use of statues dealing with mail, wire, fax and phone fraud. The U.S. Secret Service has also established an office in Lagos to facilitate the sharing of information and trailing of particular cases, he said.
In dealing with the crime, the U.S. Justice Department has employed undercover operations, using targeted businesses to identify as many of those involved in the crime as possible, he said.
Obasanjo said the phenomenon was negating government's quest for foreign investment.
He said that Nigeria's foreign missions are bombarded everyday with scores of scam letters from persons who receive them, adding that because of the trend, every document coming from Nigeria is regarded as suspect, particularly by intending investors.
"What is even more worrisome is the widespread perception within the international community, especially in the U.S. that our government is not doing enough to apprehend the culprits," he said.
Obasanjo noted that given such perception, it was apparent that even the advertorials often used by the government to warn potential victims against the scam have failed both to achieve the desired result and to convince the international community of government's genuine efforts to check the crime.
But he also pointed to government's recent response to the problem, including the
establishment of a committee to investigate and prosecute offenders.
Here is the report of the 419 Coalition Associates who attended the International Conference on Advance Fee Fraud (419) in New York 17 SEP. Our primary Associates attending were Dr. and Mrs. Shahla Ghasemi of Tampa, FL who had lost $400,000 to the 419ers. Central Bank of Nigeria has said that their monies have been recovered and are available for repatriation, and US Government has confirmed that $400,000 is available for repatriation. US Government, however, is checking to make sure that the monies being paid out to the Ghasemis are in fact Their money and not that of other victims before returning the funds to the Ghasemis. This report also appears as the 419 Coalition's Latest News Section item for 23 SEP 2002:
"We were met by Mr. Yinka Adeyemi of the Business Council for the Development of Nigeria (BCODEN), who was the Coordinator of the Conference. He was pleasant, courteous, professional, and assured us that we would have a chance to speak at the meeting.
There were over fifty people attending the Conference, including many Nigerian media personnel and many Nigerian attorneys who practice law in the United States. There were also officials from Central Bank of Nigeria; the Nigerian Diplomatic Corps; NNPC and other Nigerian parastatals; various Nigerian law enforcement entities; the United States Department of Justice; and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation etc.
The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Jubril Aminu, introduced President Obasanjo, who opened the Conference. We were in the front row, and President Obasanjo noticed the 419 Coalition logo on our name tags. He remarked that "I see some people that are attending have a badge of the 419 Coalition. This impresses me." He then advised everyone to use the logo to warn people of 419 Scams. [The logo is simply the international "no" sign, a circle (preferably red) with a line through it, over 419 (preferably in black); for those interested feel free to use it]
However, President Obasanjo's remarks were not entirely encouraging, as it sounded to me rather as if he were advocating punishing the victims of 419. He also seemed to be saying that US and other target nations' law enforcement do not do enough to fight 419. He also said that 419 is an International Crime and that Nigeria cannot deal with it alone, which is of course true enough.
Then he wished success to the meeting and left. We went to the door and met the President in person as he was leaving. We asked him to help us and other victims of this crime. He shook our hands and said that he was glad we had attended the Conference, adding that we should bring up our concerns at the meeting and we'd get responses to them.
It is my view that President Obasanjo is a nice person, and it was very courteous of him to speak with us personally.
Then Abassador Aminu announced the speech of Dr. Shamsudeen Usman of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Dr. Usman said that CBN is itself a victim of 419 since the 419ers are constantly using the CBN name. He went on to say that CBN had recently reimbursed $400,000 of an American victim's money . He said that a Nigerian Bank had been found to be negligent in this case, and that CBN had made the Bank provide the monies to reimburse the victim.
He added that CBN had not yet paid out the monies to the victim yet at the request of the US Government, because the victim in this case was under criminal investigation. At this point, I stood up and said Sir, I am the one you are talking about and your information is not correct. The payout is delayed because the US Government wants to be sure that funds to be repaid me are My funds and not monies stolen from other victims. There is no basis for anyone viewing me as a criminal, and according to my Attorney, the United States Secret Service, and the FBI, I am not under investigation.
Then a representative from the FBI spoke up and confirmed that as a matter of Policy, the United States Government does not consider 419 victims as criminals and therefore does not investigate them as criminals.
After that there were various discussions about how 419 had adversely affected the vast majority of honorable, honest Nigerians at home and abroad and hindered foreign investment and economic development in Nigeria. There is little doubt that the effects of 419 upon the good people of Nigeria at home and abroad and on the Nigerian economy have been devastating.
In these discussions, there was one US based Nigerian lady lawyer who appeared to dislike the US rather intensely, blaming the US every chance she got for all of Nigeria's woes at home and abroad etc. I was quite surprised that she chose to live here, given the level of her antipathy towards us. On the other hand, there was another young female attorney, Mrs. Hamzah, who noted that there are victims in all nations and of all classes, and she mentioned that there are even law firms that have been scammed. She said that 419 is a big problem for Nigeria and it is necessary to combat the problem. In the course of her remarks she showed considerable concern for victims of 419.
The Conference then broke for lunch, We were seated with Nigerian Consular personnel from the Atlanta and New York offices. They were pleasant.
Then another lady lawyer gave a presentation on the behalf of NNPC in which she pressed the victim as criminal issue, urging the US and others to prosecute victims of 419. Apparently she neither Heard nor Internalized what the FBI representative had said earlier, to wit: It is not US Government policy to treat victims of 419 as criminals. [Nor, for the record, to the best of 419 Coalition knowledge, is it the policy of Any other target nation -- which means most of the nations on the planet -- to treat 419 victims as criminals either. This is not going to change anytime soon, so Government of Nigeria really does need to quit trying to resuscitate that dead horse and continue moving on to other more practical points of view]
Of course, she didn't say much about the continued failure of Nigeria to mount a sustained, tangible, quantifiable effort to arrest and convict 419ers operating from Nigeria; nor did she say anything about Nigeria's failure to seize and repatriate 419ed funds in anything like the massive amounts that have been stolen. She did, however, warn against victims filing class action suits against the Government of Nigeria for 419 matters, and noted that the Nigerian Government was attempting to get legislation passed that would make plaintiffs pay for the Gov of Nigeria's court costs and attorney's fees should such suits fail.
Then everybody had a chance to speak. I stood and said to Ambassador Aminu that if Nigeria really wants to fight 419, then do not put all the blame on victims and call them criminals. When you do this you are discouraging victims from coming forward. If victims do not come forward, then law enforcement will have nothing to investigate. And that of course makes life even easier for the 419ers than it already is.
I also stood and asked the Deputy Director of CBN what was the approximate dollar value of 419ed money that had been recovered by the Nigerian Government over the twenty year or so run of the Scam? He did not know, and commented that stolen funds were very hard to trace.
I also said that in your earlier presentation you called me a criminal, and I'm here to tell you that I am NOT a criminal. Further, the United States Government doesn't call me a criminal. Additionally, it was the detailed information that I provided to the Nigerian and US Governments that allowed any recovery operations to proceed, and it was I who notified the US Government that there had been a recovery in my case as soon I was so informed by CBN. I said that if I Were a criminal I certainly would Not be here standing up in front of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Government of Nigeria drawing attention to myself.
The Deputy Director of CBN then did the honorable thing and stood up and apologized, saying Madam I did not call you a criminal, and I apologize for any misunderstanding. I very much appreciated him clearing up that point.
He added that it was He himself who had recovered my stolen monies and that he would press for resolution of this matter as soon as possible. Then one of the Commercial Attaches from the Nigerian Embassy stood and reiterated that he would press for resolution of this matter as soon as possible.
Overall, much of the meeting was really the same sort of thing that 419 Coalition has heard before over the years. The Nigerian Government appeared to be blaming the victims for the crime and not acknowledging that it must take the Lead in 419 control by implementing sustained, tangible, quantifiable efforts to arrest 419ers, convict 419ers, seize the assets of 419ers; and to repatriate stolen 419ed funds in something like the massive amounts in which they have been stolen. I hope that the effective actions the Government of Nigeria ultimately took in resolving my case, for which I am grateful, will serve as a model for other successful recovery efforts in the future.
Yes, I agree of course that 419 is an International problem. But the Scam originates from Nigeria. Therefore Nigeria must take effective counter-419 measures if 419 is to be controlled. ONLY Nigeria can control the 419ers which operate from within its borders. No other nation can do that for Nigeria. Other nations can Assist Nigeria in its internal counter-419 efforts, as the US Secret Service 419 Task Force has been doing for some time now. But ultimately it is Nigeria itself which must have the Will to get the job done.
I think that this meeting was useful in that some of the Nigerian Conferees seemed to see that pressing the victims as criminal approach is neither productive nor constructive. The Conferees were reminded again by US Government representatives that it is not Policy [in US or any other target nation] to treat victims as criminals and that target nations do indeed hold Nigeria responsible for the control of 419ers operating from within its borders.
As an interesting aside, after the meeting we showed a fake check from the Central Bank of Nigeria we had received in the course of our case to Nigerian Conferees and the Nigerian Media. They were surprised, they said, because the check did appear to be an actual check from CBN. They said the color, design, and typeface etc. were the same as real CBN checks. Since Nigerian media and Nigerian Government representatives believe that fake CBN checks look real, it is not surprising that victims of 419 do as well when they receive such checks in the course of their cases, as sometimes does happen. And, of course, the existence and excellence of the fake CBN checks makes it difficult for the recipients of Genuine CBN checks to have confidence in their validity. This of course creates difficulties for the credibility of the apex bank and for the Government of Nigeria, as noted by the Deputy Director of CBN in his earlier remarks.
I am grateful for the efforts of the Government of Nigeria in my case and am certain that the continuation of such efforts in the cases of other victims will be very useful in controlling 419. I appreciated the opportunity extended me to attend the Conference and feel that it was a constructive event."
Comments may be addressed to Mrs. Ghasemi at Rubycafe1@aol.com *************************************************************************
26 SEP 2002 More on the 17 SEP NY Conference. This article appeared yesterday on the NigeriaWorld website. It contains virtually every canard that the Nigerian Governments have used over the years to obfuscate and pass the buck on its Obligation to control 419 criminals operating from within its borders. So we thought we'd put it up here in the News and Once Again (****yawn, sigh****) deal between the lines with each problematic point the piece makes: Fighting back at 419 scam By Laolu Akande New York, NY, USA NIGERIAN CENTRAL BANK COMPELS THE REFUND OF MONEY LOST BY AMERICAN VICTIM OF ADVANCE FEE FRAUD There is perhaps nothing as menacing to Nigeria's image abroad as the issue of 419 scams. 419 Coalition: That's true enough. So bad, was the situation that under Abacha's dictatorship, the US Congress actually named a bill enacted into law in 1998 as "Nigeria Advance Fee Fraud prevention Act." 419 Coalition: That's not quite accurate, the bill died along with Abacha. This disclosure was brought to light by the unassuming, but very impressive president of the Nigerian Lawyers Association, NLA, Ms. Beatrice Hamza. 419 Coalition: We thought it was Old news, since we've had a menu item up on the main page of our site covering the bill for 4 years now... That piece of legislation gave our country the unrivaled aspersion, but clearly unfair and prejudicial act, of having its name as the label for a financial crime as though it was all about Nigerians alone. 419 Coalition: Nigerian 419ers gave Nigeria the clearly fair misfortune of having itself named as a safe haven for financial crime. The proposed legislation was merely a logical reaction to that fact. Which was why I thought the idea of an international conference-which was where Hamza spoke- to diagnose the issues involved in the 419 debacle is such a germane idea. 419 Coalition: Yes, international conferences on 419 are a good thing especially if all sides of a matter are examined and reported upon. President Olusegun Obasanjo at that first ever international conference on Advance Fee fraud and related offenses he opened Tuesday morning in New York said that the 419 scams that are being heaped on Nigeria, in many cases, are perpetuated by citizens of other countries because of the size of the country and the past deeds of some Nigerians. 419 Coalition: In actual fact, according to the United States Secret Service Task Force on 419; other US Agencies; and other law enforcement agencies in the UK and elsewhere, most 419 operations are Indeed run by Nigerians and are most often run from Nigeria no matter What the ostensible national origin or ostensible location of the 419ers as told the target. There are some local copycats in other nations, of course. But, in general, it would indeed be accurate to say (shorthand) that the responsibility for 419 scams that is being heaped on Nigeria is indeed well deserved, as most 419ers are in fact Nigerian, and the "home office" of most 419 operations is Nigeria. Therefore, President Obasanjo has apparently been misinformed on this matter. But he also underscored the fact that that the image of the country is being dented by 419 scams, noting that the menace is in fact now assuming "disturbing proportions." 419 Coalition: True enough. "Scores of scam letters are being referred daily to our missions abroad, including the embassy in Washington, DC, as well as the consulates in New York and Atlanta, with very negative comments about Nigeria, made by recipients of such letters. The trend is doing incalculable damage to the country and poses great challenge to our foreign investment promotion drive." 419 Coalition: Very true. He went on to lament that what is even "more worrisome is the widespread perception within the international community, especially in the United States, that our government is not doing enough to apprehend the culprits." Obasanjo said he hoped the conference would proffer strategies to combat the scam and related offenses. 419 Coalition: Yes, it is very worrisome to the target nations that Nigeria has not, over the last twenty years 419 operations have been running large-scale, taken sustained, tangible, substantive efforts to control 419 criminals operating from within its borders in terms of arrests of 419ers, convictions of 419ers, seizure of property and assets of 419ers, and repatriation of funds to victims in anything like the massive amounts in which they have been stolen. Obasanjo who left New York soon after declaring the conference opened contended that the "incidence of '419' scam would have drastically reduced, if there were no willing accomplices, as it takes two to tango. People should not expect to reap where they did not sow." 419 Coalition: Ah, that old tango saw again..... The President is one again misinformed. It only takes ONE to send out a 419 letter. Under Nigerian law the sending out of that letter is In Itself a crime. Therefore it takes ONLY ONE TO TANGO and anyone sending out a 419 letter should be arrested and convicted for that act alone. And, in terms of that second old "reap where one did not sow" saw isn't that Exactly what the Nigerian 419er is doing the Instant he sends out his First 419 missive? 419 Coalition would argue that if there were NO 419 letters sent out then there would be NO 419 so therefore Nigeria should enforce its own laws regarding the sending of 419 proposals. Recalling what he called an American dictum, Obasanjo warned that "if a deal looks too good to be true, take another look, because if a deal is too good to be true, it most probably is." 419 Coalition: Yes, that is of course true. But then, mostly, it is not generally illegal to be naive, greedy, or stupid. However it IS illegal to send 419 proposals out to targets, and it IS illegal to steal money from the targets based on a fraudulent proposal, no matter what that proposal is. For the better part of the day on Tuesday at a New York Sheraton Hotel, Nigerians and Americans, people and government officials sat together for the first ever international conference on Advance Fee fraud, a.k.a. 419. The conference was organized by the Nigerian government, through the Embassy in Washington in conjunction with the Business Council for the Development of Nigeria; a New York based business development agency. Dignitaries who attended and some of whom spoke at the conference included Nigeria's Ambassador to the US, Professor Jubril Aminu, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, CBN deputy Governor, Chief Sena Anthony, NNPC Group General Manager and the corporation's executive director of finance Chief Osi Harry. Others were Mr. Akin Sawyer, a director from the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, Ms Beatrice Hamza; the president of the US based Nigerian Lawyers Association and Dr. Bato Amu, president of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization among others. Other Nigerian embassy officials like Consuls General Taofiq Oseni and Joe Keshi were also present. From the US government speakers included Mr. Gary Dagan, the FBI Chief of Economic Crimes Unit and Mr. Jonathan Rusch, Special Counsel for Fraud prevention from the US Department of Justice. Interestingly, an American woman, Mrs. Shahla B. Ghasemi, who was a victim of a 419 scam, robbed of about $400,000, was also in attendance, with her husband, all the way from Florida. The story of this Florida woman, a registered nurse and restaurant owner in Tampa is a compelling one. Sometimes in 2000, she and her husband a medical doctor, got a cold call from a Nigerian man who said he is "the" director of the NNPC. Hear her story: "He introduced himself to us as the director of NNPC. He said that he had a confidential message for my husband, but if we were to expose this message, he could loose his job and his life." Having apparently prepared his victims' mind with sympathy, the scammer then introduced the deal: "...he told us that one foreign contractor from our country who died transferred $27,400,000 to Dr. Ali Reza Ghasemi. (ie the husband) We were very shocked. After that he faxed all the documents and attached all the needed documents. We looked over everything and they all seemed real, all bore the government's official seals and stamps." The couple did not waste nor bother to do any corroboration, but proceeded to send to the scammers about $400,000 before they knew it was all fake. Alerted, the Nigerian authorities sprung into action 419 Coalition: We would not exactly call it "springing into action" since the case has been on the books and a matter of public record for a couple of years now..... but they eventually did take an action, yes. and CBN, according to its Deputy Governor, who spoke at the conference, fined the bank in Nigeria that received some of the money, by compelling the bank to refund $210,000. 419 Coalition: The reader will note that this does not mean that CBN actually Recovered the money, and also that the $210,000 "fine" is roughly about half of what the Ghasemi's lost. What about the remainder of her funds... and what has happened to the 419 criminals who stole her money? Have they been arrested? Charged? Had assets seized? Been convicted? No mention of any of those matters. However according to the CBN official, Dr. Usman, when the US embassy in Nigeria was told that the CBN has a cheque to refund the woman's money, 419 Coalition: Make that "refund half of the woman's money." the embassy asked that Nigeria withholds the money and that the US government will commence a criminal investigation of its citizen involved first. 419 Coalition: That is simply not true. US Government is merely trying to ascertain that the monies she is to receive did not come from other 419 victims than herself, as, if so, those whose money it actually Was would have first call on the funds. Mrs. Ghasemi is not under any kind of criminal investigation, indeed, the US FBI representative at the Conference reiterated that "IT IS NOT THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE THE VICTIMS OF 419 AS CRIMINALS." Nor, we might add, is it the policy of Any target nation, including UK, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico (nearly every nation on earth is a target nation) to treat the victims of 419 as criminals. However, the woman, who originated from Iran with his husband, denied doing anything criminal insisting that her husband and herself were victims. 419 Coalition: Mrs. Ghasemi is not under investigation for any crimes. And, IN FACT, the Deputy Governor of CBN stood and Apologized to Ms. Ghasemi in front of the whole Conference saying that he did not mean to imply that she was a criminal and that he regretted any misunderstanding. But you will expect that if the Nigerian government is making such efforts like this, it will at least reduce the number of foreigners falling for the scam. Not quite. 419 Coalition: We'd prefer it if Nigeria would concentrate more on controlling the number of 419ers operating from within its borders and being conducted elsewhere by Nigerian nationals than on educating foreigners on 419. The target nations and public service organizations can educate targets away from 419 proposals. But ONLY Nigeria can arrest, convict, and seize the assets of 419ers operating from within its borders. THAT is what the target nations need Nigeria to do. President Obasanjo noted in his address that it is regrettable that "in spite of the best endeavors of the Nigerian government, some people, including many in the United States, still fall victims to the activities of the perpetrators of the '419' scam." 419 Coalition: Yes, despite the best efforts of US Government, UK government, many other target governments, the Nigerian government, and many many public service organizations people still do fall victim to the 419ers. But we reiterate, Nigeria should leave the educating of potential targets largely to the target nations and use its resources to control the 419ers operating from within its borders, which is something that Only Nigeria can do. Anyone can educate. Only Nigeria can arrest the 419 criminals within its borders. In a scathing observation, the president said many of those who are scammed themselves suffer from greed, stressing that "they should be condemned and brought to justice." 419 Coalition: Perhaps the President is unaware of the standing Policy of the US and every other Target Nation government we know of that victims of 419 are not prosecuted. After all, it would be rather silly to prosecute the people who Lose the money while those who Make the money are running around Nigeria with impunity happily spending it having no fear whatever of punishment, would it not? The 419 victims are, of course, punished by the loss of their funds but the Nigerian 419ers are punished by.... what? And there is the crux of the problem in counter-419 operations. He said his government was doing a lot to fight the scam, outlining various actions including the setting up of a high-powered committee for the investigation and prosecution of 419 offenders. 419 Coalition: Once again the President has been misinformed. Even with all the committee-making and talking, talking there has still been only several dozen convictions in Nigeria for 419 for the whole 20 years the scam has been running. By contrast, in the US alone, in 1997 alone there were over 500 convictions related to Nigerian 419 operations, mostly for operating "clearing houses" that the 419ers use to move stolen monies out of the country. What Nigeria needs is NOT more committees. Nigeria has formed committee after committee on this for at least the last 10 years (see the Nigerian Government 1992 White Paper on 419). What Nigeria needs is.... to get out there and ARREST,CONVICT, AND SEIZE THE ASSETS of 419ers operating from within its borders. Nigeria must Do.............. Not talk, talk, talk. He said the idea of the conference came up since it became clear that that the "traditional response of placing advertorials in selected international newspapers and magazines, warning potential victims against the scam has not only failed to achieve the desired results, but has also not convinced the international community of our genuine efforts at combating the menace." 419 Coalition: Since when is the "traditional" response to crime running advertisements? We always thought that the "traditional" response to crime is arresting and convicting the criminals, and it is That which Nigeria is not doing and never has done in the numbers warranted by the magnitude of 419 operations. Once again, Nigeria needs to spend the money it spends on advertorials etc. on its OWN law enforcement efforts to control the 419ers within its borders. Others can educate targets away from 419, Only Nigeria can control the 419ers operating from with its borders. In his speech, Nigeria's Ambassador to the US, Prof Aminu, who also chaired the conference sessions that followed after the president's departure, observed that the conference is an eloquent testimony of the Nigerian government determination to "assail the scourge of 419 which, in the soiled hands of a few of our greedy, unpatriotic and irresponsible fellow citizens has brought a most undeserved stigma to a country of very genial, confident and generous people, our people of Nigeria." 419 Coalition: We'd prefer actions to flowery speeches, but at least Prof Aminu did note that it was the 419ers themselves who have brought the stigma on the Nation and people of Nigeria. That is quite true, of course. Aminu, who brought his intellectual acumen and wit to bear on the direction and management of the conference sessions as chairman also argued that the incidence of 419 scams are possible because it is carried out together "with selfish and equally greedy foreigners who have more ambition than sense and more greed than industriousness to afford a comfortable and honest existence." 419 Coalition: And, even if that were entirely accurate, which it is not, last we here heard was that it is generally not illegal to be selfish, or greedy, or to have more ambition than sense, or more greed than industriousness etc. But it IS illegal to be all of those things, which the 419ers are, AND send out a 419 letter to seek targets. Sure enough that's illegal. And the target nations want those 419 criminals who are doing that from within Nigeria's borders dealt with. Mr. Leon Wynter, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who was the Rapporteur, said in his opening comments that a US magazine called Money magazine actually reported that in Nigeria 419 scams are the second largest industry after oil. He said the conference was timely, as there were a lot of misconceptions about the issue. He added that part of the seriousness of the scams is that the US Secret Service has actually opened an office in Lagos to fight the scams. 419 Coalition: Gosh, we've been derelict in our duties, on the site we have 419 as only the third to fifth largest industry in Nigeria but it seems that it has been promoted to Number Two after oil... Like I said at the conference, the bottom-line is Nigeria's image. 419 Coalition: Until Nigeria takes sustained, tangible, quantifiable efforts to control the 419ers operating from within its borders by arresting 419ers, convicting 419ers, seizing the assets of 419ers, and repatriating stolen funds in something like the huge amounts in which they have been stolen, yes, Nigeria's image will remain that of a country that provides a safe haven for financial criminals. And it would seem the time has come when the Nigerian government and Nigerians abroad need to aggressively sell Nigeria's side of the 419 story 419 Coalition: "Sell Nigeria's side of the 419 story"???????? Nigeria HAS no real side of the story to "sell". Nigeria has Never made and Does Not Now make a sustained, tangible, and quantifiable effort to control the 419ers operating from within its borders. Where are the arrests? Where are the convictions? Where are the seized assets? Nigeria simply has very little to "sell" concerning its side of the 419 story --- Public Relations and Spin etc. etc. from Nigeria...... such as much of the malarkey put out at this Conference (unfortunately) are NOT going to deal with the 419ers operating from with its borders.... unless it is to provide them a feeling of aid and comfort! to the popular American press, who would rather not focus on the fact that US citizens who participate in this scams ought to share in the blame and disrepute that comes with the offense. 419 Coalition: Once again **sigh** Neither the US nor any other target nation prosecutes its citizens who are victims of 419. And victim bashing of course would be counter-productive, as then even Fewer victims would come forward to give evidence against the Nigerian 419 criminals who Make the Money. The fewer the number of people coming forward against the 419ers the better it is for them, of course. Therefore, victim bashing, which discourages them from coming forward, is tantamout to giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And finally, 419 Coalition has Not noticed that many of the Nigerian 419ers who Make the Money are too worried about sharing in any "blame and disrepute" that comes with the offense. Heck, the Nigerian 419ers seem to be Proud of what they do!