Swedish artist flew to Nigeria and befriended man who scammed her

‘He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself’, says Maria Grette

A 69-year-old artist has broken her silence to tell how her romancewith a Nigerian con-artist blossomed into a warm relationship with Africa.

Maria Grette fell in love with a 24-year-old “419” internet scammer who tricked her out of thousands by faking an elaborate tragedy.

But after he confessed, she travelled to meet him and has since flown to-and-fro as part of a working relationship with dozens of Africans.

“Johnny (not his real name) has given me more than he took,” said Ms Grette, in a BBC article by award-winning Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.

“Without him, I would not have met Africa.”

As a 62-year-old, Ms Grette, who divorced a few years earlier, got talking to a 58-year-old Danish man online after her friends created a dating profile for her as a joke.

Ms Grette parted with ‘several thousands of euros’ Rex

After three months he said he was coming to visit her native Sweden, but said he and his son had to travel via Nigeria for a job interview.

He then called her to claim they had been mugged and his son shot in the head.

After a series of manipulative and emotional pleas for cash, Ms Grette transferred “several thousands of euros” but eventually came “to her senses” and stopped messaging.

Grette travelled to Nigerian capital Abuja, pictured here where family members celebrate the return of Boko Haram’s kidnapped girls, to meet Johnny AP

He then got in touch three weeks later to confess to being one of Nigeria’s notorious 419 scammers and said he was a “devil” and she a “lovely woman”.

In October 2009, she flew to Africa for the first time and spent two weeks in the country meeting Johnny and his scammer friends.

For the past six years, Ms Grette has flown various Africans to Europe for art exhibitions, workshops, conferences and competitions.

With her financial assistance, Johnny has gone on to study in America and now works in the oil sector.

“He is very dear to me,” said Ms Grette, who now lives in Norway and still speaks to Johnny.

“He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself.”