Three scammers have been arrested in Douala, as they tried to carry out a scamming deal that involved the sale of two lion and two cheetah cubs. The three were arrested during a crackdown operation carried out by wildlife officials of the Littoral Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife and the judicial police with technical assistance from The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA).
According to sources close to the operation, two of the arrested suspects aged 21 and 24 are law students of the Soa University, in their first and third year respectively and are equally brothers while a third who is suspected to be the ring leader is an accountant aged 30 and a cousin to the two brothers and works with a Douala-based company. The two brothers were arrested in Akwa Douala as they attempted to finalise a transaction for the purported sale of the protected wildlife species..
During the illegal transaction with a white lady to whom they claimed they could export the feline cubs to Uzbekistan where she is supposed to be based, the gang used falsified documents including a CITES permit; a document issued by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to those who are interested in exporting wildlife species from the country. A CITES permit is signed by the Minister but the scammers forged one, faked the signature of the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Ngole Philip Ngwese and used it as proof of authorization to convince the buyer they could legally export feline cubs. The main suspect used the false name Peter Caldwell during the entire transaction that was done principally on the internet.
The offences are punishable under section 158 of the 1994 wildlife law with a prison term of up to 3 years and or payment of a fine of up to 10 million francs CFA and section 203 of the Cameroon penal code gives a maximum of 20 years to anyone found guilty of forging government stamps and documents. “Whoever forges or alters the signature of any Minister or any government stamps shall be punished with imprisonment for from ten to twenty years”, states the penal code.
While this could be an act of pure scamming alone when scammers claim to be able to supply live wildlife species to interested buyers and then when money is transferred to them, they disappear, changing addresses and phone numbers, it might as well also be an attempt at illegally exporting wildlife species, wildlife law enforcement experts say. This situation had once been observed in Muyuka a couple of years back when a scammer was arrested and it was later found out that he had been exporting primate skulls to the US.