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Sewing Machine Hoax Stitches Up Saudis

Hoaxers tricked hundreds of people in Saudia Arabia into believing their old sewing machines were worth a fortune as they contained a mythical substance.

Saudi newspapers published pictures of people proudly posing at traditional markets next to Singer machines said to contain red mercury. The English-language Saudi Gazette newspaper said some buyers were willing to pay up to 200,000 riyals (£35,000) for an old Singer sewing machine proven to contain red mercury. Mobile phones are supposedly used to prove the existence of the substance. Red mercury has never actually been proved to exist since references to it first emerged in the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and debate rages still about its authenticity. Popular belief in the Middle East has it that it can help uncover hidden gold treasures, though there are other theories which say it can be used to create a nuclear bomb. "If the line cuts off when the telephone is placed close to the needle ... that proves the existence of the substance," the Saudi Gazette said. The Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper said: "Poverty provided a fertile ground for the red mercury rumor to spread in Saudi society, especially the middle class." Thousands of Saudi citizens have lost their life savings to financial scams consisting mainly of schemes to raise money for property projects. A Saudi interior ministry spokesman said: "We have to find out who started this hoax. "People hope to make profit. This is no different to cases of citizens who put their money in untrustworthy schemes." Source: Sky News

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