The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

For example, here's how Mr Omar came into the big bucks: "In my department (the telex and credit department of the Sengal-Dakar Agrobank) we discovered an abandoned sum of $31 million, in account of our foreign customer who died along with his entire family in November 1999 in a plane crash . . . We agree that 30% of the money will be for you as foreign partner . . . 10% will be set aside for expenses . . . 60% would be for ME and my colleagues, there after I and my colleagues will visit your country for disburement."

My take: a sweat-free $9.3 million. And all I have to do is provide him with the number of one of my bank accounts (could this be easier?), a safe haven where the cash could sit until he could arrange for "disburement". That should be enough, with compounding, to cover my daughter's first year at university, or if my son continues to fake lightning-bolt-like periodontal pain when I ask him to brush his teeth, two years at the Actors Studio.

Brown Dumbushe was the chairman of a contract review panel in Zimbabwe before being chased from the country because he was a member of the opposition party. He recovered $26.8 million from overinflated contracts and has been able, somehow, to move those funds into a secure account in the Netherlands. Now, Mr Dumbushe is so impressed by my business acumen that he wants to pay me $2.68 million if I will only let him invest in my next venture, whatever it may be. In fact, he's willing to send that money - sight unseen - to my bank if I simply send him my account number.

Hey, that could be seed money for the online pet store I've been thinking about launching. I think the domain name might be available. I feel particular sympathy for Kaba Jamila, whose father, a wealthy cocoa merchant in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, was poisoned by his business associates. Mr Jamila will give me as much as 20 per cent of his $16.5 million inheritance if I "SERVE AS THE GUARDIA OF THIS FUND SINCE I AM A BOY OF 26 YEARS". Again, all I have to do is provide a bank account and serve as a guardia. Piece of cake.

I'm less inclined to help some of my correspondents, in spite of their pleadings. Take the Sese-Seko family. They may be honest, law-abiding citizens themselves, but their dad's administration made Boss Tweed's 19th-century political gang look like the cast from Zoom, not to mention the fact he wreaked three decades of havoc upon the Congolese people. From the hundreds of millions papa plundered from his countrymen and women, mom and son only have $30 million squirrelled away. And in keeping with Dad's greediness, neither of them offered me a cut up front, though they did say remuneration would be discussed. Mom just wants me to help her invest the funds so that she may "acquire real/landed properties and stock in multinational companies".

I'll pass on this one. Even if I did want to help them, my investment track record the past two years should be enough to dissuade them.

Another e-mailer, Dr Efe Osamende, coordinator of the federal government of Nigeria contract review panel of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had the gall to think that I would consider accepting a large sum of money fraudulently. He said that the NNPC over-invoiced a contract with a conglomerate of foreign companies to the tune of $24.5 million. And he expects me to help him get his hands on his ill-gotten gains? Try some other sucker, Dr Efe. (I'll bet he isn't even a doctor.)

Confidence Game

When I have the occasional twinge of doubt about these opportunities, wondering if they're really on the up-and-up, I just reread the reassuring legalese that most of the e-mails provide. For example, General Ojiani assures me that "this transaction is NOT ILLEGAL and we will NOT ENTER INTO ILLEGALITIES AT ANY STAGE OF THE TRANSACTION TO TRANSFER THIS FORTUNE ABROAD; EVERYTHING WILL BE TRANSPARENT AND PROPER".

And this is the word of a military officer. A general, no less.

So with my golden years provided for and plentiful tuition funds for the young'uns, I sleep more easily these days. And because my family's needs shortly will be taken care of forever, I can now share my good fortune by forwarding to my friends all the e-mail offers that continue to flow into my inbox at an amazing rate. I still can't figure out why I have been so blessed, but it brings me great joy to know that I can share my bounty with others, peaceful in the knowledge that THESE ARE NOT SPAM MAILS.

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