DUBAI // Victoria Nazadova was thrilled to be coming to the UAE. A Slovakian teacher living in Germany, she had applied through what she thought was an official website for a position with the Ministry of Labour. By October last year her application had been successful, she had paid the necessary fees of more than US$4,000 (Dh14,700), and everything was lining up for her new life to begin.
But she was wrong. In fact, she had fallen victim to an elaborate scam. The website was fake; there was no job. And, Dubai Criminal Court heard yesterday, the "fees" had gone to line the pockets of a Nigerian conman. EE, 25, who lives in the Naif area of Deira, was in court charged with cyber fraud, forgery and embezzlement. He was arrested after Ms Nazadova filed a complaint with the UAE embassy in London that she had been taken in by the website www.uaeministryoflabour.tk.
Ms Nazadova had responded to an advertisement on the site, the court heard, exchanging e-mails with EE, and eventually transferring US$1,287 to him through Western Union. For this, she received a counterfeit acceptance letter and work visa. EE then contacted her again to request US$2,850, which Ms Nazadova was told was for notarising the contract at Dubai Courts and which she also transferred to him.
And then everything went quiet. A series of e-mails sent by her went unanswered. Eventually, in April, she contacted the embassy to file a complaint. The embassy passed the matter on to the Ministry of Interior, which in turn referred it to the Dubai Police cyber-crimes division. Lt Abdullah al Ka'abi, of the cyber-crimes unit, said that although the .tk domain name originated from Tokelau, a South Pacific territory of New Zealand, the website had been registered in the United States.
Similar web addresses can be obtained, free and with minimal effort, by anyone with an internet connection. Lt al Ka'abi told prosecutors that the defendant specialised in advertising fake teaching jobs. "He posted the job vacancies and all contacts were referred to his personal e-mail," he said in his statement. "He would then communicate via e-mail with the victims until he received the monies from them."
According to Lt al Ka'abi, EE was not operating alone. "When we arrested him he did not possess any computer equipment; it was revealed that he was the person who received the monies while others communicated with her outside the country," he said. EE pleaded not guilty to the charges but waived his right to hear witnesses in the case. He was remanded in custody. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The presiding judge, Hamad Abdel Latif, said he would issue a verdict on November 19. Major Saeed al Hajri, the director of the police cyber-crimes division, said outside court that more than 316 cyber crimes had been committed since the beginning of this year. However, he said, this was the first case involving a website allegedly purporting to be that of a government department. "People should not believe every thing they see on the internet," he said. "Validation and contact should be made with the original claimants before any payment is done."