Friday, February 16, 2018

World's Largest 'Black Magic' Heist - Foutanga Babani Sissoko

In August 1995 Foutanga Babani Sissoko walked into the head office of the Dubai Islamic Bank looking for a loan to buy a car. The manager agreed, and Sissoko invited him home for dinner. It was the start to one of the most audacious confidence tricks ever.

Sissoko made a startling claim. He told the bank manager that he had magic powers. With these powers, he could take a sum of money and double it. He invited his new Emirati friend to come again, and to bring cash.
When he arrived at Sissoko's house the next time, carrying his money, a man burst out of a room saying a spirit - a djinn - had just attacked him. He warned not to anger the djinn, for fear his money would not be doubled. The man waited. He saw lights and smoke. He heard the voices of spirits. Then there was silence, and the money had indeed doubled. It was all Black Magic's doing.

Between 1995 and 1998, the bank manager made 183 transfers into Sissoko's accounts around the world.
In November 1995, only weeks after putting on the magic show for Mohammed Ayoub, Sissoko visited another bank in New York, and did more than just open an account. Sissoko married a teller at the bank, and later paid his new wife more than half a million dollars for her help. According to a case brought by the Dubai Islamic Bank against Citibank, more than $151m "was debited by Citibank from DIB's correspondent account without proper authorization". The case was later dropped.

Sissoko came unglued when he tried to buy Vietnam era gunships for unknown reasons. The helicopters needed a special export licence, so Sissoko's men tried to offer a $30,000 bribe to a customs officer. They got themselves arrested.
Sissoko was caught in Geneva, where he'd gone to open another bank account. He was quickly extradited to the US, where he mobilized an army of influential supporters. The US government wanted Sissoko held in custody, but he was bailed out for $20m - a Florida record at the time. Sissoko began giving away large sums to good causes, as long as there were cameras. The Miami Herald believed he gave away over a million dollars a month. Despite the PR effort Sissoko disregarded his lawyers' advice and pleaded guilty.The sentence was 43 days in prison and a $250,000 fine - paid, naturally, by the Dubai Islamic Bank, though without its knowledge. After serving half this sentence, he was given early release in return for a $1m payment to a homeless shelter.
Eventually the bank manager confessed. 890 million dirhams, the equivalent of $242m had been stolen. Had it not been for a state bailout the bank would have failed.

For 12 years, between 2002 and 2014, Sissoko was a member of parliament in Mali, which gave him absolute immunity from prosecution. For the last four years, no longer an MP, he has been protected by the fact that Mali has no extradition treaty with any other country. The Dubai Islamic Bank is still pursuing him through the courts. And the money? His answer is blunt. "No I'm not rich any longer. I'm poor."