ATM card cloning suspects found guilty

WINDHOEK: Five people accused of running an international syndicate which made fraudulent credit and debit card transactions during 2007, were on Monday found guilty in the High Court.

The group, which consists of four foreign nationals and a Namibian, were found guilty by High Court Judge Alfred Siboleka Monday afternoon.

The convicted persons are Amirthaligam Pugalnanthy, 25, and Pararasasingam Sarangan, 24, both from Sri Lanka; British national Salheeskumar Thulasithas, 30; Namibian national Tjiuiju Travoltha Mekaundapi, 27; and Obdur Kader Jamar, 43, from Singapore.

They were found guilty on charges of fraud, theft, forgery and possession of foreign currency in excess of the amount legally permitted by the Bank of Namibia.

“All the five accused persons acted in common purposes and acted as a group together to commit their fraudulent criminal acts. The prosecution witnesses presented credible evidence when testifying before court and they had no reasons to implicate the five men in the matter,” noted Judge Siboleka.

He added: “The five men have been operating and networking in Namibia as a group together between June and August 2007 to commit the crime. And according to the evidence of the State witnesses, the five men knew each other well before their arrest on 07 August 2007.”

Siboleka said the five men had intentionally defrauded the various local banking institutions at the time.

According to the summary of substantial facts contained in the charge sheet, the syndicate gained access to information found on Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and credit cards, either by stealing the original cards or by card-skimming or scanning the information on cards, using equipment apparently attached to the card slot of an ATM.

Members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) at the time managed to recover N.dollars 920,741.56 during their sting operation, of which N.dollars 94,372.00 was in Namibian currency.

Three of the convicted persons were apparently caught red-handed at an ATM in Katutura in the early hours of one Tuesday in August 2007, where the police had set a trap for them.

The three arrested persons then led the authorities to the rest of the group, and to the equipment which they had been using to commit the fraud, which was also confiscated by the police.

Upon their arrest, it was reported that the group had tried in vain to come to an agreement with a security guard during a previous visit to the ATM, but the guard reported their suspicious behaviours to his superiors, which eventually led to their arrest.

NamPol, along with staff members of Bank Windhoek, held a media conference in the capital in August 2007, where they displayed a host of fraudulent cards, cellphones, labelling devices and a card-printing machine confiscated from the group.

Bank Windhoek said at the time that the group appeared to have been working with a group of people outside Namibia.

The four foreign nationals have been kept in police custody at the Windhoek Central Prison’s holding cells since their arrest in August 2007, with no option to post bail.

Namibian national Mekaundapi had been free on bail of N.dollars 50 000 and his bail was on Monday withdrawn upon his conviction.

The five men return to the Windhoek High Court on 09 April this year to hear submissions of evidence for sentencing.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Ed Marondedze is representing the prosecution in the matter.

Windhoek-based defence lawyers of Sisa Namandje and Brownell Uirab are representing the five men, acting on the instructions of the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Legal Aid.