x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'I need your help …'

On April Fools' Day, we can all learn from the cautionary tale of alleged scam artists who may have outwitted themselves by getting too greedy.

Has Muammar Qaddafi's daughter-in-law got a deal for you. She needs your confidential assistance to claim her inheritance from the late Libyan dictator's family. The whole caper may seem a little shady, but don't worry, she'll pay you well. You will however have to provide a little money up front …

Sound familiar? You've killed a thousand emails like this. It's hard to believe that anyone still falls for such scams, but on this April Fools' Day consider poor MA, as Dubai court documents call him.

The Qatari man says he fell for a scam that started with an email about Qaddafi money. But it proved to be far more elaborate than many such schemes. He flew to Egypt, met fake UN employees at a fake UN office, received suitcases full of what appeared to be US banknotes painted black, and paid out more than $560,000 (Dh2.1 million).

As the affair is described in court documents, the alleged culprits sound as if they are clever enough to make a living in some reputable way. But nobody has a monopoly on credulous greed: MA says he became suspicious when the scammers asked him for even more money. Two suspects are on trial, a third fled the country.

On any day of any month, greed can make a fool of anyone.