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  International Law/Fraud

Tolliver v. Federal Republic of Nigeria, 265 F.Supp. 2d 873 (W.D. Mich. 2003), involved a fraud commonly known as an Advanced Fee Fraud or "419 Scam." In these scams, impostors posing as Nigerian Government officials claim to have access to millions of dollars on deposit at the Central Bank of Nigeria, which they claim are left over from an over funded government contract. The impostors contact various individuals and businesses throughout the world and offer to share the money from the over-funded contracts if the individuals or companies assist them in getting the funds out of Nigeria. Fraudulent government documents are produced in order to create an air of legitimacy to the transaction. The assistance sought by the impostors is the payment of various purported fees, taxes and bribes in order to get the money out of Nigeria. The so-called victims of the scam, driven by greed, ultimately pay these alleged fees and taxes by wire transfer to various private bank accounts throughout the world. Since the whole transaction is a scam, the fictitious, over funded contract funds are never sent to the so-called victims.

In Tolliver, the plaintiff claimed that in 1993 he entered into a contract with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to solve oil or gas pipeline misalignment problems that plaintiff claimed were prevalent in Nigeria. Although he never traveled to Nigeria to inspect the pipelines and did not receive any technical information regarding the alleged misalignment problems, plaintiff claimed to have solved these problems and that, therefore, he was entitled to $25,000,000. Additionally, beginning in 1999, plaintiff began making payments to various persons allegedly posing as Nigerian Government officials in an effort to collect the $25,000,000. Plaintiff alleged to have made payments totaling $500,000.

Plaintiffs as well as the Nigerian Government defendants moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was denied and the Nigerian Government Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted. In granting the motion, the Court found that the Nigerian Government Defendants were immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In reaching this decision, the Court recognized that plaintiffs became involved in a 419 scam in which the Nigerian Government Defendants were not involved.