A possible diamond scam in which an unsuspecting buyer almost parted with R680,000 in cash was foiled in the South African city of Port Elizabeth yesterday.
Despite the seriousness, the victim declined to be named and refused to open a case, saying that the crime had not yet been committed, and the 35-year-old suspect was not charged.
The drama unfolded yesterday morning when Captain Charmaine Badehorst received a tip-off from a security guard at the Walmer Park Shopping Centre that a man might have been tricked by well-known fraudsters.
The police said that the suspect – who had been selling what he purported to be emeralds or diamonds – had convinced the buyer the gem was legitimate because he had SARS documents of a registered company that dealt with a mine in Zambia and got stones very cheaply.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said when the police got to the scene, they had noticed an “oldish white buyer” driving away in his silver Hyundai Tucson with the suspect. Badehorst and a colleague had then looked for the vehicle and the two officers had asked Captain Karen Nel to check on particulars about the buyer in the computer system, based on his vehicle’s registration. The police then contacted his business, were given his cell phone number and had immediately phoned him. “Nel warned him he was possibly in the middle of a scam,” Labans said.
“The buyer instead indicated he was returning to Walmer Park. Police officers [waited] for him, but his vehicle did not show up." The police then contacted him and pretended to be his daughter.
“The buyer said he had stopped at the Engen garage near the airport, where police found him and the suspected diamond seller in the car.” The buyer indicated to them he intended to buy the gem because the suspect had told him another customer was prepared to pay R1.3-million for it.
“We want to warn the public not to think they can make a quick buck and then fall victim to scams,” Labans said. These criminals facilitate the deal, but later the buyer finds out his precious ’emeralds’ are glass. “The victim was relieved that he had not handed over the money.”
Later that day it was learnt that the suspect had previously been charged with fraud, robbery with a firearm and driving under the influence of alcohol.