'Black magic' cash-doubling scam lands men in court

ABU DHABI // Two men allegedly swindled out of Dh250,000 they believed could be doubled by "magical powder" yesterday pleaded guilty to being involved in black magic. The men, an Emirati and an Omani, were arrested after informing police they had handed over the money to two men, identified by the court only as Africans, who told them they possessed the power to double their cash.

They were joined in the docket by a colleague who allegedly helped facilitate the crime. The colleague, who was not identified, was also charged with dealing in black magic and pleaded guilty. All three asked the court for leniency. The two African men were also arrested and will be tried separately. They have been charged both with dealing in black magic and counterfeiting. Following an increase in such crimes, the Supreme Judicial Council declared last year that anyone involved with so-called black magic - including victims - would be charged and prosecuted.

According to prosecutors, the Omani and Emirati were told by their colleague that the Africans could double their cash in six hours. They agreed to meet at the home of Emirati defendant in December. "They handed the briefcase to [the African men] and they took it into the bathroom," the attorney representing the Emirati and the Omani told the court. Prosecutors believe the Africans hid the money in their clothes while they were in the bathroom.

They are then alleged to have put Dh250,000 (US$68,000) in counterfeit money in a transparent plastic bag and poured some kind of powder on it. "They shook the bag to make the amount look like it has been doubled and then gave it to my clients," the attorney said. The African men told them the process would take six hours to complete and that they could not open the bag until then. Six hours later, the men opened the bag and discovered that the money felt and looked fake.

"There were 250 notes of the Dh1,000 bill. All counterfeit money," the attorney said. After discovering that the Africans had switched off their phones, the men called the police. The African men were arrested in Dubai days after the incident, along with the alleged victims and their colleague. Prosecutors did not say if any of the money was recovered. myoussef@thenational.ae

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