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Duped and dumped: Pain of tourists in hands of fake agents

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Con artists posing as tour agents have swindled hundreds of tourists from various parts of the world, threating Kenya’s image as a tourist destination.

The con men use fake online campaigns, complete with sweet reviews and budget tourism packages to lure foreigners who make advance payments before they are abandoned in Kenya once they arrive and pay the rest of the cash.

The Sunday Nation has also learnt that the cartel, which runs deep in the industry, has perfected the art of evading law enforcement officers by changing names, staff and tourist vans before resurfacing during high seasons to mint millions from helpless tourists visiting the country.

One of the latest victims of such a scam is Mr Chen Dong Yuan, a 51-year-old Chinese engineer from Changsha, who could not have been more excited to take advantage of the direct flights launched by the China Southern Airlines in June to visit Kenya.

Kenya had lauded the airline’s bi-weekly flights from Changsha and back to Nairobi with its 330-200 Airbus planes, added to the non-stop flights to Guangzhou, as one of the biggest boosts to its tourism sector with prolific tourists from China, ranked by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as the world’s top spender on tourism in 2017.

Mr Chen had no idea what awaited him and his five friends in Nairobi after planning and paying 50 per cent deposit to Kenya Walking Survivors Safaris Limited for the eight nights in different tourism spots around the country. That was in early July.

Their plane touched down on the morning of July 31 and what was their lifetime dream to take a nine-day tour of Kenya began with a driver from the company promptly picking them from the airport.

“We went to their officers where I paid $2,820 (about Sh295,000), which he insisted should be in cash. We then set off for Amboseli for two nights as per the itinerary. We had the vehicle but the driver changed outside Nairobi. On our way back, the driver told us the company that handed us to him had suddenly closed and our trip could not continue unless we made fresh arrangements,” Chen told the Sunday Nation, beginning his tragic tale of tourists in the hands of con men. In a foreign country and in the middle of a tour, a sudden stop was unimaginable. Their online guide (Mr Otieno Lysaniash) who also received the money when they arrived, had switched off his phone and true to the driver’s words, the office located at Vision Plaza was closed.

Mr Chen chose to complete the trip when the driver suggested that if they paid more, he would take them to the Maasai Mara, Naivasha and Nakuru as per the previous plan. They agreed and paid, doubling their tour budget and turning an otherwise happy trip into a struggle to beat the cons and survive any other attempt to fleece them. The driver, Stanslaus Ongeri, told the Sunday Nationthat he was only hired as a freelancer by the firm and did not know the whereabouts of its owner, Mr Otieno, who he also claims made him to lose Sh25,000 in unpaid expenses.

The con victims had only Mr Ongeri after they were abandoned. Given the limited time they had and the shock that came with the first attempt to scuttle their trip, they had little choice but to rely on him even to report the matter to the police, despite the mistrust they developed towards him for having been part of the company that swindled them.

In Maasai Mara, they met another group of tourists who immediately identified the driver and attempted to beat him up.

They had been swindled by the same company and it took Mr Chen’s group to protect their driver from the angry tourists, an experience Mr Ongeri admitted but again claimed to have been an innocent freelance driver. It was getting worse and they could not trust him again.

“We hardly slept and every time we had to leave the car, we took the car keys so that he doesn’t abandon us. It is very sad that so many other tourists could be going through such an experience. The Kenyan government must save this situation because it will dampen the desire among those coming to visit the country. We are going back to China very bitter,” Mr Chen, whose case was booked at the Industrial Area Police Station under OB65/2/8/2019, said.

True to his words, many people have suffered under the travel agency, which seems to have mastered the art of swindling foreigners, closing shop and re-emerging only during high season.

The plot involves creating attractive packages and engaging foreigners online in a manner  suggesting good customer service. Once they are in the hook, the tourists, who in many cases have fixed schedules and have no other contact people in the country, are abandoned sometimes at the border crossings between either Kenya and Uganda or deep in the game lodges to find their way back and travel to their home countries.

The con men also change the key contact people once the tourists arrive, including a different driver to cut links before leaving them stranded.

Travel sites have already blacklisted the firm with its reviews, which are said to be doctored to mislead tourists.

“TripAdvisor has grounds to investigate that individuals or entities associated with this property may have attempted to interfere with traveller reviews and/or the Popularity Index for this property. Please take this into consideration when researching your travel plans,” the travel site flagged on its website this week.

The Sunday Nation could not reach Mr Otieno as his Mombasa Road office remained closed as adjacent shops either feigned ignorance or were too scared to talk about the firm.

Online, tens of tourists from around the world complained of bitter experiences after their trips were cancelled just before their departure dates while dealing with Kenya Walking Survivors Safaris Limited.

Some of those affected from Canada, Argentina, Taiwan, India, US, Brazil and the United Kingdom have reported the cases to the police with little action taken.

“Our honeymoon trip is in three days and we just received an e-mail that the company has technical problems and therefore cannot give the required services. Mr Otieno just wrote that we will receive the funds between 45-90 working days. I’m really panicking,” a couple from the US wrote on Friday.

Kenya received some 2.1 million tourists in 2018, with the US remaining the top source. China, which was ranked sixth, sent 81,709 representing a 4.03 per cent growth from the previous year.

Attempts to reach Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala on the happenings that are now a big threat to tourism in Kenya were futile as it emerged he had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta on a tour of  Jamaica.

BY nation.co.ke

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SPONSORED: Mahiga Homes Directors embark on a meet-the people tour of USA [VIDEO]

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Mahiga homes Directors Mr. Patrick Muchoki and Mr. Joseph Ruhiu will embark on tour of meet the people in the USA on 12th to 13th October 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia where they will be attending the Anniversary of Kikuyu Diaspora Media owned by the Ceo Jeremy Damaris.

Mahiga Homes Ltd is a Real estate developer doing decent and affordable housing. We set out to deliver homes within 12 months, at an affordable rate, in a secure and serene environment. We are passionate about quality of product/ service and meeting of set deadlines. Our values are anchored on a strong foundation of ownership. Mahiga Homes is building the first modern real estate platform in Kenya by pairing the industry’s top talent with technology to make homes acquisition experience intelligent and seamless.

Thereafter they will head to Boston Acre Pub, Lowell 282 Fletch Street on 18th to 19th October where they will meet the esteemed clients there. At Boston it will be a goat eating event as they offer you affordable houses at flexible payment plan.
Here are the affordable houses that they are currently selling;

Mahiga homes Ltd affordable houses.

 

Rockvilla III Estate located just 300 meters off tarmac at Joska along kangundo road, Kangundo rd is under construction to upgrade to dual carriageway,Spa cious 3 bedroom bungalows master ensuite on plot size 40 by 80 kes 3.95m deposit kes 1.6m then pay the balance in 12 monthly instalments

Brickstone Gardens located off Thika rd superhighway on Kenyatta rd just 300 meters off tarmac, Luxurious 3 br bungalows master ensuite,on plot size 40 by 80, offer price kes 4.25m

 

 

Osoit II Gardens Kitengela just 900 meters off Namanga rd, along Acacia road near Kitengela International School, Spacious 3 br bungalows master ensuite on plot size 50 by 100, offer price kes 4.85m, deposit kes 1.7m then pay the balance in 12 monthly instalments.

The RIVERFRONT, Spacious and Luxurious 3 bedroom bungalows, all bedrooms ensuite, on plot size 50 by 100, kitchen with pantry, located in Ruiru suburbs overlooking Tatu city kes 5.5m deposit kes 2m and pay the balance in 12 monthly instalments.

For more info
Call/WhatsApp +254720460413
www.mahigahomes.co.ke

 

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SPONSORED: ‘Mahiga Homes’ introduces Rockvilla Annex

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MAHIGA HOMES is a Real Estate development company doing decent and affordable housing. It has earned the reputation on delivering homes on time within a period of between 10-12 months (depending on the project), at an affordable rate. All the homes are in secure and serene environments, accessible from the Central Business District (CBD)  of Nairobi.

Hand-selected by local experts, these homes – curated by design, amenities, and neighbourhood – provide a visual snapshot of the most sought after properties around. Mahiga homes are affordable, luxurious and are of modern designs. The team is passionate about quality of product/ service and meeting of set deadlines.

And now….INTRODUCING ROCKVILLA ANNEX…
3 bedrooms master ensuite, sitting on 40 by 80 plots
#MAHIGAHOMESDELIVERS
#MAHIGAHOMES
#NEWESTATE
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Call/whatsapp :+254705838117

What you see is what you get.

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Kenyans had Sh60 billion ‘hidden under mattress’

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After a four-month-long demonetisation exercise, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has invited detectives to examine 3,172 suspicious deposits.

The Kenya Revenue Authority can also stake a claim to Sh60 billion in new deposits flagged in the exercise.But the currency audit numbers tell only part of the narrative.

The full story will unfold as individuals found to have made suspicious deposits begin their appointments with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the taxman and other investigative agencies.

It is a story that is likely to expose the rot in the country’s financial system, which was expected for an exercise that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Government believed was necessary to restore order in the banking industry.

For the last four months to September, the CBK has been steadfast in its pursuit to unearth the dirty money, and it put out 15,000 advertisements.

Governor Patrick Njoroge yesterday said they had flagged 3,172 suspicious transactions whose value he did not reveal.In his last press briefing on demonetisation, Dr Njoroge said condemned notes valued at Sh7.4 billion had been rendered worthless after its holders failed to beat the September 30 deadline to exchange them with new notes.

Although some journalists felt that the Sh7.4 billion figure was smaller than expected, the CBK governor said the demonetisation process had successfully met its twin objectives of curtailing illicit financial transactions as well as the proliferation of fake currency.

Curiously, the money that did not find its way back into the banking system was almost as much as the Sh7.7 billion that the country lost through the Goldenberg scandal in the 1990s.

Njoroge said the lost cash could be part of the dirty money its holders had been unable to redeem.He added that other investigative agencies – including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Financial Reporting Centre – had crucial information pertinent to their mandate.

“There is good information that these agencies will continue to work on,” said Njoroge, adding that the fight against dirty cash did not end on September 30.The Government also drew the taxman’s attention to Sh60 billion that found its way into the formal banking system.He said with the end of the exercise, KRA could now deal with tax matters more easily after discovery of the new fortunes.

The governor noted that with so much cash finding its way into the banks, more transactions were going to be cashless.“The demonetisation process proceeded very well,” said Njoroge, noting that majority of the transactions were below Sh1 million.

This means that 99 per cent of the money that went into bank accounts was not subjected to the stringent anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CFT) rules.Deposits or withdrawals of less than Sh1 million are not subjected to additional scrutiny.

Reject deposits

But Njoroge insisted that at no point did banks fail to comply with the AML/CFT measures, saying some banks even rejected deposits.He, however, did not give the number of times banks did this or the value of money that was rejected.

The governor conceded that there had also been a lot of work done on the counterfeit front following increased incidences of fake money circulating.  He, however, acknowledged that a few transactions might have “slipped through filters” into the banking system.

When he announced the demonetisation process on May 1, Njoroge cited the need to combat illicit financial flows in the country and region, which had largely been perpetuated by the condemned notes.

During the demonetisation period, money flowed back into the financial system in billions of shillings, as Kenyans who had put their savings “under the mattress” opted to park their wealth in bank accounts.Njoroge said people did not exchange the old currency for new notes and take the money back to their hiding holes.

By October 1, there were 149.7 million pieces of the new Sh1,000 notes, against 209 million pieces that were deposited in bank accounts, leaving a difference of 60 million pieces.By June 1, when the demonetisation process began, there were 217 million pieces of the old Sh1,000 notes outside the banking system, representing 83.2 per cent of the total.

Unveiled with fanfare in 1994, the Sh1,000 notes bowed out of circulation with a tarnished reputation.Njoroge noted that the old note was the “oil that kept the wheels of corruption, drug trafficking, tax evasion and other crimes rolling”.

By Standard.co.ke

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