It is a phenomenon that is growing in Senegal: “sextortion”, or blackmail with sexual photos and videos. Behind this blackmail, vengeful former partners or ill-intentioned relatives, who sell this content to blackmail professionals who demand hundreds of thousands of CFA francs under penalty of disseminating it. Testimony and explanations.
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With our correspondent in Dakar, Juliette Dubois
With her eyes downcast, the young woman struggles to tell her story, still in shock two months later. “Aissatou” – her first name has been changed to protect her anonymity – had intimate videos on her phone that she sent to her husband, who is based abroad.
One day, she receives worrying messages. Aissatou says: “ Unknown numbers contacted me to blackmail me and demand money. When I asked one, he said he sold the videos by sharing them with others. When I investigated, it turned out that it was my best friend who gave it to them. He was often at home. »
Thieves take advantage of victims’ inattention
Aissatou’s friend took advantage of a moment of inattention to steal his private videos from his phone. The people on the line are threatening to broadcast these videos on social networks: “ They sometimes ask me for 500,000 (761 euros), 700,000 or 800,000,” or thousands of euros…
The victims, often young women, arrive to file a complaint with the cybersecurity division in a state of stress and, above all, very embarrassed. Lieutenant Oumar Ndiour, head of the judicial division of the cybersecurity division of the Senegalese police, explains: “ The reception aspect is very important. They need to confide first. In general, when they arrive here, we put them in contact with ladies, they speak with them and they tell them: here, we are professionals. These are cases that we can resolve, and even beyond that, speak with the prosecution so that, if there is to be a trial, it will be behind closed doors. »
Aissatou’s friend sold the videos to pay for the clandestine canoe trip to Europe. He was arrested the day before his departure, and the investigation is still ongoing.
There is actually a high threat of diffusion that happens very often, it’s really at the international level. This is what we call Beninese sextortion here. One way or another, it’s linked to this country. It’s really the number 229 (the international code for Benin, Editor’s note) that comes back. These are people who create fake profiles with the identity of a lady of a certain beauty and who lure men on social networks. And from there, they trick you into taking your clothes off and filming you in a video call. As soon as it’s done, there’s a blackmail group that will take over to say that if you don’t do it, we already have your friends on Facebook, that we know everyone. A job that they do before, they will go into the profile to look at who you are friends with, etc. And from there, they put pressure on you to force you to send money. This type of crime mainly targets young men on the internet and sometimes even middle-aged people.
Aly Kandé, head of a special cybersecurity division, explains how men can also be victims of these practices