Dear all, Be careful !!!

(1)Des Gregor, an Australian sheep farmer kidnapped in Mali (African country) where he'd gone to meet "Natacha," an Internet bride, owes his freedom to the Canadian Embassy.

(2) It is not the first time a love-struck Des Gregor travelled across the world. Three years ago he went to Russia in search of a bride, but came back empty handed.



Canadian Embassy foils kidnapping

Officials help Australian farmer held captive in Mali by Internet-bride scammers
Jean-Fran?ois Bertrand, The Ottawa Citizen; with files from Reuters

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Des Gregor, an Australian sheep farmer kidnapped in Mali where he'd gone to meet "Natacha," an Internet bride, owes his freedom to the Canadian Embassy.

The 56-year-old was the victim of a con -- last month he flew from South Australia to the African country looking for love.

And a $100,000 dowry in gold bars.

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Font: ****Instead, he was kidnapped soon after landing in Bamako, the capital. Machete-wielding bandits kept him hostage for 12 days and told him they'd hack off his limbs one by one unless his family paid a $100,000 ransom.

But with the help of officials at the Canadian Embassy -- Australia doesn't have an embassy in Mali, so Canada provides them with consular service -- the scammers were scammed.

"The embassy became the control centre for the police operation," explained Mr. Gregor, reached yesterday at his farm in Hoyleton, South Australia, about 100 kilometres north of Adelaide.

From that base of operation, an Australian Federal Police officer was in contact with the sheep farmer's brother, Wilf.

At the same time, the victim was also talking with his brother, from the single bedroom apartment where he was detained, "with one bloke always sleeping at the door."

The demands made by "those people," as Mr. Gregor calls his captors, were relayed back to the Canadian Embassy in Bamako.

In the middle of the afternoon last Wednesday, Mr. Gregor walked into the embassy -- and into freedom, though he didn't know it yet at the time.

"I was greeted by a Mr. Diego, a Canadian, and the Australian Federal Police officer. They were to take me to the bank to get the money," said the victim.

Mr. Gregor still feared for his life. He thought that even if he paid his captors the ransom, they still "would have killed me. I'd be dead."

But he learned that police, Australian and Mali, had duped the kidnappers into letting him into the embassy to collect the ransom.

The secure building became a safe haven for the bachelor. "It's like they had kidnapped me, but under much better conditions," he joked.

He slept at the embassy and was taken to a hotel for breakfast and a shower the next day. Back at the embassy, he stayed under the protection of Canadian officials until Friday evening, when he flew out of the country.

"The embassy bent over backwards to accommodate us, they were just fantastic," he said emotionally. "They were magnificent."

Canada provides consular services for Australian citizens in Mali under an agreement with Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman R?jean Beaulieu said yesterday. He confirmed that Canada provided "consular assistance" to an Australian citizen, but could not provide further details because of privacy rules.

Mr. Gregor wasn't the only one who flew out of the country. After he arrived to Australia, he cancelled his credit cards and found that one had been used to buy two airline tickets on two different routes for $1,700.

When Mr. Gregor arrived in Mali, he was to meet "Natacha," whom he had met on the Internet. She had posed as a refugee from Liberia and the couple decided to wed after a whirlwind online romance. There was even someone posing as a minister helping him contact her. "When it's a minister, you don't think you're going to get in trouble," Mr. Gregor said.



Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2007
"You have to be careful, you can't trust anybody," he added to his cautionary tale.
It is not the first time a love-struck Des Gregor travelled across the world. Three years ago he went to Russia in search of a bride, but came back empty handed.
The sheep farmer, who feels ridiculed by Australian media, is not currently searching for love through his computer.
Australian Federal Police seized it in search of clues.


Australian looking for Internet love ends up kidnapped in Mali: report

Sat Aug 11, 4:55 PM

SYDNEY (AFP) - A lovelorn Australian bachelor's trip to find true love in the heart of Africa via the Internet turned into a nightmare of kidnap and extortion, a report said Saturday.

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 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, 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," 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, 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 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."

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.

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.