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Desmond Gregor

Desmond Gregor

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News Headlines - Sydney Australia

Desmond Gregor, 56, from South Australia state, travelled all the way to Mali to meet "Natacha", a young lady he had become acquainted with online and who promised him riches, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

But instead of Des Gregor being greeted by her relatives on arrival in the capital Bamako, gangsters who had orchestrated the scheme kidnapped him, stripped him naked, put a gun to his head and waved machetes in his face.

Having expected to be given 100,000 dollars in gold, Desmond Gregor instead now found he had to find 100,000 dollars or have his arms cut off, the report said. A series of email messages to relatives implored them to send money.

But when some of the emails appeared to be from someone with very poor English, concerned relatives became suspicious and contacted Australian foreign affairs officials.

"We did not know exactly where our brother was being held, how he was being treated and what would happen to him," Desmond Gregor's relatives said in a statement.

On Thursday, after a 12-day ordeal and an international sting involving Australian and Malian police, consular officials and hostage negotiators, Desmond Gregor was rescued.

The operation involved a supposed ransom of 30,000 dollars which he took into the Canadian embassy in Bamako, where Australia has no diplomatic mission. The kidnappers fell for the trick and let Desmond Gregor enter the mission, but they escaped capture.

"We enticed them into a deal. Their greed lured them in. It was too tempting," Tim Morris, assistant commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, was quoted as saying.

"I still can't believe he survived.", said Desmond Gregor.

West African Internet scams are well-known, often involving Nigeria. "Natacha" turned out to be a Liberian woman in her 20s purporting to be living in a refugee camp and offering riches of gold.

Desmond Gregor's family urged others not to repeat his mistake.

"People can get tunnel vision when it comes to matters of the heart, and scammers can be so convincing," the family said in a statement.

Internet Scams

www.scambusters.org

Australian Federal Police

www.afp.gov.au/home.html

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