USD1 Million Vanishes from Nat Foods Accounts
16 July 2023
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Massive Cybercrime Uncovered: Zimbabwe’s Nat Foods Parastatal Falls Victim to Multi-Million Dollar Fraud

The state-owned Sunday Mail aligned with the ruling party ZANU PF, has claimed a significant victory in uncovering a major fraud that cost the country’s National Foods parastatal nearly a million dollars. The paper reports that a team of investigators from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police’s commercial crime department conducted extraterritorial investigations into what is believed to be one of the largest cybercrimes ever reported in the country. The investigation yielded some promising results, with substantial amounts of money recovered and assets seized.

The Cybercrime:
According to the Sunday Mail, the fraud involved cybercriminals who managed to gain unauthorized access to National Foods’ computer systems. The criminals initiated an intricate phishing scam by sending an email that appeared to be from a South African financial institution to the company’s finance manager. Upon opening the email, the company’s computer system was corrupted, granting the fraudsters access to sensitive information and authorization for financial transactions.

The Investigation and Recovered Assets:
After detecting the cybercrime, law enforcement agencies swiftly launched an investigation. The team of investigators, consisting of members from the NPA and the police’s commercial crime department, traveled to South Africa to pursue extraterritorial inquiries. Despite facing some challenges due to delayed paperwork, the investigators managed to trace and recover approximately R15 million (equivalent to about US$800,000).

Additionally, authorities seized a mansion in South Africa believed to have been purchased using the ill-gotten funds. The South African Asset Forfeiture Unit, with the assistance of its Zimbabwean counterparts, obtained a court order freezing the bank accounts and properties suspected to be connected to the crime. The investigation further revealed that an additional R5 million was located in South Africa, and some funds were traced to a bank in Namibia.

Challenges and Future Plans:
While the investigation team was unable to interview the suspected foreign hackers during their initial visit to South Africa, they are planning a return trip to pursue further inquiries. Authorities remain committed to bringing all those involved in the cybercrime to justice and recovering the remaining stolen funds.

The Impact on National Foods:
National Foods, a prominent local manufacturer and marketer of food products, claims to have suffered a loss of US$1.4 million due to the cyberattack. The incident has highlighted the vulnerability of businesses to sophisticated cybercrimes and the importance of robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive financial information.

The recent uncovering of a large-scale cybercrime targeting Zimbabwe’s National Foods parastatal demonstrates the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks faced by businesses and organizations worldwide. The efforts of the investigative team, despite encountering some challenges, have resulted in the recovery of significant amounts of money and the seizure of assets. The ongoing investigation, coupled with plans for further inquiries, signifies the commitment of law enforcement agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice and mitigate the financial impact on the affected company. This incident serves as a stark reminder for businesses to remain vigilant and implement stringent cybersecurity measures to safeguard their financial and operational integrity.