State applies to court to get one Black Axe accused back in custody

News24 / Jenni Evans

The State is trying to get one of the eight alleged Black Axe internet romance scammers back in custody, pending extradition to the United States with the others, after he managed to get bail at the Western Cape High Court.

Toritseju Gabrieal Otubu was granted bail on appeal on 16 May this year.

The group was arrested in a high-profile sting in Cape Town’s Parklands in October 2021 because the US Justice Department wanted them extradited to face trial in that country.

They were arrested in an operation that included the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With top lawyers Anton Katz SC and Ben Prinsloo behind him, Otubu appealed to the Western Cape High Court separately for bail, and it was granted, but with stringent conditions.

The others also applied to the High Court and were unsuccessful in a hard-hitting judgment by Judge Daniel Thulare.

Acting Judge Geoffrey Carter granted Obutu bail of R210 000 after the appeal, with strict conditions, including staying away from the internet and cryptocurrency.

The State, with prosecutors Robin Lewis and Lenro Badenhorst, returned to the High Court on Friday to appeal against that decision in the hopes of getting Obutu back behind bars while the extradition proceedings continued.

Otubu was alleged to have been the money launderer.

Carter decided that Oliver, the magistrate, had used the wrong section of the Criminal Procedure Act to deny the accused bail initially. However, when the appeal for the others was heard, Thulare found she used the correct section and that group stayed in custody.

Carter said he would need to read all of the submissions on whether what the State was asking for is possible.

Carter told the prosecutors and Otubu’s lawyers that he would get back to the lawyers next week on some of the early legal points, before hearing the entire application.

The group is alleged to have scammed people in the US via the internet for money. They are accused of taking on aliases, starting up romances, and eventually asking their pretend-love for a financial bailout.

The Black Axe group is apparently global, and the South African arrests are understood to have netted some senior members.

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