A leading chef has revealed that his restaurant was targeted by a fake booking which he believes to be a money laundering scam.
Mark Greenaway, who runs an eponymous restaurant on North Castle Street and has appeared on TV shows such as the Great British Menu, received an e-mail from a man claiming he wanted to book for a party of 30 people to celebrate his son’s birthday in April.
But after confirming the booking for the £75-a-head tasting menu, the man went on to ask a “favour” of the three-AA-rosette restaurant – saying he wanted to pay an extra £2,000 on his credit card to pay a bus driver who would transport the group to the restaurant on the day of the event.
The “father” then added that he would not be able to pay the driver himself as he was in hospital, awaiting surgery for his “hearing impaired condition” and asked that the amount be paid to the driver via “cash deposit”.
Suspicious, Greenaway immediately contacted police, who advised him not to continue with the booking.
The chef, who recently announced plans to introduce a £50 penalty for diners who reserve a table but fail to show up, said: “We were contacted through our bookings e-mail address a couple of weeks back from a gentleman looking to book our restaurant at 3pm for 30 people as a surprise for his son’s birthday, nothing strange there you would think?
“He then went on to say he would like to pay for everything in advance on his credit card as it was a surprise for his son and he didn’t want him bothered with payments on his big birthday. He requested the tasting menu for them all, only he had a favour to ask regarding the driver that would be delivering the party and waiting to pick them up and move them on to their next destination.”
He added: “This is money laundering and a very old scam where someone overpays for something and asks you to transfer the money back to them but to another account.
“It would be quite easy to fall for it, we get legitimate requests for these type of bookings all the time. We have passed all information on to the police and they have advised not to take the booking any further.”
In an e-mail conversation with Greenaway’s bookings team, the man, who signed his initial e-mail “Mr Timothy”, wrote: “The favour I will be needing from you is that I will like you to add an additional £2,000 to the total cost which you will charge on my credit card as payment for the driver that will be bringing all the guest for the dinner party and when payment clears into your account you will deduct the cash and send to the driver via cash deposit as his charges for handling the transport of my guest to and from your restaurant for the dinner party.”
He added: “I am willing to pay a tip of £200 for your time and credit card added tax if you could assist with this favour.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We can confirm that we were contacted in relation to a concern over a potential money-laundering scam. Appropriate advice on this matter was provided to the caller.”