What is it about Dubai that makes it ever so vulnerable to some of the world’s most hilarious high-profile con jobs in the world?
There was this story in the BBC last year about the exploits of one Foutunga Babani Sissoko, a Malian national who managed to defraud Dubai Islamic Bank of $242 million in three years and got away with it.
And all it took Mr Sissoko to pull off that audacious heist was walk into the bank’s head office one day in August 1995 to purportedly negotiate a car loan, secure a dinner date with a manager and convince him that he (Mr Sissoko) also possessed black magic powers to double money.
That one lucky dinner with the bank manager is reported to have multiplied the Malian conman’s fortune in a way even he himself could never have imagined.
By 1998 when the fraud was detected, the poor spellbound bank manager is said to have made 183 transfers to Mr Sissoko’s accounts.
It triggered a cash flow crisis for the bank from which it had to be rescued by the state at some stage.
Along the way, the saga found its way in a US court via a high-profile case in which Dubai Islamic Bank sued Citibank for more than $100 million wired into an account believed to be Mr Sissoko’s there.
By the time the BBC caught up with Mr Sissoko for its story, he had retreated to his remote village in Mali where he described the $242 million heist as a ‘slightly crazy story’ and denied ever having possessed magic powers in the first place.
Well, the Malian would be at least glad to learn that he was not the last of the daring tricksters to test the limits of his powers against the cash-flush Emirati.
The unfolding saga of a scam in which some Kenyans reportedly sought to sell the Dubai ruler a consignment of mallets and cement packaged as gold has the marks of a great magical display as well.
By the time the gold scammers were exposed in the media, they are said to have extorted about Sh400 million from the royals to ostensibly facilitate the release of their precious cargo ‘detained at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’.
A man mentioned in the scam has since come out to say that the actual value of the ‘business deal’ was Sh30 billion and he would have made a cool Sh1.9 billion.
The choreography for the fraud scheme was out of this world, with arrangements made for a man identified as the representative of the Dubai ruler to meet an impersonator of the Interior minister, who arrives for the meeting at a private residence in a motorcade escorted by the police and even inspects a guard of honour.
The fact that the mastermind of the scam hasn’t been arrested is proof that black magic is real.