Flag of the Rogue State of GhanaInternet fraud and the modern day Sakawa

The untold Ghana story

Internet fraud or “419” is the act of defrauding unknown persons over the internet. Various modus operandi ranging from issuing of fake checks to using of falsely acquired credit cards to make dubious purchases. The schemes used by the 419ers seem to be growing every day with the influx of improved technology. The methods used by 419ers would be treated with a different write-up. However, this write-up aims at looking at the various forms 419 has pass through over the years.

The 419 scam originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based Nigerian economy declined. Several unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the west, and later the wider population. Scammers in the early-to-mid 1990s targeted companies, sending scam messages via letter, fax, or Telex. The spread of email and easy access to email-harvesting software significantly lowered the cost of sending scam letters by utilizing the Internet. In the 2000s, the 419 scam has spurred imitations from other locations in , Asia and Eastern Europe, and, more recently, from North America, Western Europe (mainly UK), and Australia, the latter three mainly done by Africans. The number “419” refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: “Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating”) dealing with fraud. The American Dialect Society has traced the term “419 fraud” back to 1992.

Widespread of the knowledge that most business conducted over the net are susceptible to internet fraud, many business men/women have become extremely cautious of transaction on the internet. This knowledge led to the decline of the 419 trade. So steep was the decline that many perpetrators of 419 otherwise known as “Sakawa” sort spiritual guidance in their action. This action opened a chapter in the Sakawa trade. Most people who consulted spiritual guidance were given special rings to wear on a particular finger to be used during the transaction over the net. This ring allegedly possesses the power of charming a victim into succumbing to the whims and caprices of the fraudsters.

Spiritual Dimension

After the victims have been charmed, the perpetrators will then go on to make their demand which cannot be refused by the victims. Another spiritual dimension taken by Sakawa was used of caskets. Three or four people interested in cyber crime would contact a selected spiritualist who will make them sleep in a casket for a particular number of the days. In taking this journey, they would be made to understand that one of them would not survive the ordeal. The interested parties then play gamble with their lives as they definitely known one of them stands as chance of dying as a result.

After the incident, one dies as a result and the surviving persons then go on to become spiritually strong and they may use their spiritual strength to indulge in more Sakawa deals. Money immediately accrued form the death of the unfortunate person is used to organize a lavish funeral for the deceased.

Whereas the spiritual ring provides an added advantage to perpetrating of Sakawa, the casket method seems to be the most powerful as a result of the sacrifice of one human life made.

Provision of Conditions

Another spiritual approach was the provision of conditions as result for outcome or success or failure or Sakawa deals. One of the conditions which perpetrators of Sakawa are given is the abolishment of bathing. As long as the perpetrators remain without taking their bath the potency of the spiritual power would be at its highest efficacy. One of the news of this example making rounds is that a young man, who went for this type of method, went a great deal of days without taking his bath. On a very unfortunate day for this guy, his mother/sister just jokingly sprinkled water on this young not knowing the repercussions saying the son has developed an offensive odor. This marked the death of the young guy as he fell down foaming. The repercussions of the breach in this spirituality method can never be compromised. Certain conditions are prescribed for the practitioners. They are asked to eat from a refuse dump; search for old blood-soaked women pads from the refuse dump; walk bare-footed, others prevented from sleeping at night.

As the demand for the spiritual processes intensified, a new dimension to Sakawa was developed. Though totally not new, the used of the term “Sakawa” to refer to “blood money” or “quick money” evolved just recently when spirituality attached to internet fraud broke off to stand on its own as a new way of making money. The culprits are mainly the youth, who for want of a quick money generating venture go in for these means of making money. These people can usually be seen riding in posh cars such as Ford Expedition, Infinity, Crysler etc. which were bought with the money accrued from Sakawa.

Fraud & The Ghanaian Media Landscape

Daily Guide in its 1st May 2009 edition, reported that Nana Azumbi a.k.a Motia Father, a renowned Sakawa spiritualist has been busted by the police for allegedly defrauding people of various sums of money under the pretext of doubling it. His arrest has led to several interesting occurrences on the same issue within the media landscape.

For instance, Peace fm online reported that “A group of suspected Blood Money ‘SIKA DURO’ or ‘SAKAWA’ boys have been arrested by the Ghana Police at Mambo, a suburb of Greater