TM Pick n Pay lost $22 million to e-mail hacking fraudsters suspected to be targeting huge businesses in the country, police have said.
The retail group was deceived through a contrived e-mail in the name of TM Pick n Pay financial manager Raymond Matsetsa instructing accounts staff to send money from a bank account held at Steward Bank, Avondale branch, to four company accounts which were systematically emptied.
TM Pick n Pay employees and Steward Bank insiders are suspected of being involved in the scam.
The case also exposes systemic flaws in the banking system that make it easy for fraudsters to operate unchecked and banks’ unresponsiveness to clients who have lost large sums of money.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commission Paul Nyathi last night confirmed the arrest of one suspect, Tonderai Chagweda, who is assisting police with investigations.
He said the offence was allegedly committed on January 28 when the fabricated e-mail instructed Steward Bank to process and transfer the money into four companies.
Steward Bank, said Asst Comm Nyathi, then acted on the instructions and transferred $10 million into a company called Simrac Investments, Leechiz ($3 million), Madzara Investment ($7 million), and Maalocka Pvt Ltd ($2 million).
He said TM Pick n Pay discovered the transaction, which they disputed on March 3, with the manager in question saying the e-mail was doctored. However, investigations led to the arrest of Chagweda.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police was suspecting that it could be syndicate on the prowl targeting large businesses.
“We are conducting investigations into the matter,” he said. “We are also appealing to members of the public with information to come forward and assist the police to arrest other suspects involved in the crime.”
Chagweda’s lawyer Charity Tawanda of Tawanda Law Practice, also confirmed the arrest of her client. She said there seemed to be no connection between her client and the alleged facts.
“My client neither works for TM or Steward Bank nor was any of the alleged sums transferred to him,” she said.