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Thousands of pyramid scheme victims forgotten while con artists roam freely

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Last year, Patrick Kanai died a painful death.

The 70-year-old battled diabetes and high blood pressure for years and was blind by the time he succumbed to the illnesses.

Mr Kanai’s problems date back to 2006 when he and his wife Lucy Njambi invested Sh529,000 in Kenya Akiba Microfinance.

The couple had hoped to get a Sh2 million loan to buy a bus and get into the transport industry.

Akiba Microfinance kept postponing the disbursement of the loan and Mr Kanai would later learn that he was among thousands of members who were yet to get a cent after investing in the firm owned by former Imenti Central MP Gideon Mwiti Irea.

former Imenti Central MP Gideon Mwiti Irea

Mr Kanai chaired a lobby of victims whose complaints to the Central Bank of Kenya led to a sting operation on Akiba Microfinance.

Owing to the stress and pressure of losing his retirement benefits, Mr Kanai developed high blood pressure, which eventually led to his death.

The Kanai family was not alone.

In 2007, businesswoman Oprah Aguso asked her husband for Sh200,000 to set up a business.

She had successfully invested small amounts of money in pyramid schemes and had reaped instant benefits.

Angry husband When her husband gave her access to his bank account, Ms Aguso withdrew Sh245,000 and went to Uchumi House, where she deposited the money with a company called Magnon Investments, which turned out to be a pyramid firm.

After Magnon upped and left, Ms Aguso had no option but to come clean to her husband. The man turned violent and left the home. Family members tried to intervene but her husband insisted on being paid his money before any negotiations could take place. And that’s how a family was broken up.

The same year, Mr Thomas Nderi had just been retrenched from Telkom Kenya and was trying to figure out what to do next.

After being told that he could invest with Akiba Microfinance and have his money triple without breaking a sweat, he walked to the Ministry of Co-operatives.

Bank heist The then-commissioner Francis Odhiambo confirmed to him that Akiba Microfinance was a registered co-operative. Confident, he took his money to Kenya Business Community Sacco, where he met Mr Irea. That was the end of the road for Mr Nderi’s investment.

While Mr Nderi was immediately thrust into poverty, Mr Irea continued — and still does — to enjoy billions he reaped from Kenya Business Sacco, Akiba Microfinance and Kenya Multipurpose Business.

In 2013, Mr Irea was elected Imenti Central MP and served the full term before losing to Moses Kirima in 2017.

Akiba Microfinance was among the first pyramids to be netted as it fell in 2005, with detectives claiming that it was illegally operating a bank.

But the Chief Magistrate’s Court acquitted Mr Irea in 2011, arguing that no proof had been advanced to show that Akiba Microfinance was anything other than a hire purchase business.

Mr Irea’s Akiba Microfinance sued the CBK, demanding Sh930 million in damages. He won.

Today, taxpayers could be forced to pay the former MP over Sh5 billion after mediation on the dispute between Mr Irea and CBK collapsed.

Perhaps in a case of poetic justice, Mr Patrick Ingoi, one of the top beneficiaries of pyramids, did not get to enjoy his loot in peace.

Before he got into the world of pyramids, Mr Ingoi was a bank robber. He is most remembered for masterminding a violent Sh23 million bank heist.

The Tanzanian government has been baying for his blood since the 2004 robbery at the National Bank of Commerce in Moshi. Last year, the Court of Appeal dismissed an application by Mr Ingoi seeking to stop extradition and he was immediately shipped to Tanzania.

It is unlikely that Mr Ingoi’s Global Entrepreneurship, which collapsed after receiving Sh139 million from investors, will give victims refunds, but they can get some comfort knowing that some poetic justice was served on Mr Ingoi.

Khalwale’s Bill At least 20 people committed suicide between 2005 and 2007 after being defrauded by such schemes, while dozens of divorces and family break-ups were reported.

A crackdown on the pyramids and a task force formed by the then-Co- operatives Minister Joseph Nyaga in 2009 appeared to be the first step

to justice for 150,000 victims who lost Sh8.1 billion.

But more than a decade later, not a single individual has been convicted despite the owners of the fraudulent firms being made public.

The Criminal Investigations Department, now Directorate of Criminal Investigations, arraigned 11 suspects, including Mr Irea and George Donde — owner of Deci that gobbled up Sh2.4 billion and was the single largest pyramid then — but nobody was ever found guilty.

The criminal justice system failed 150,000 poor Kenyans, something that should perhaps worry victims of new-age pyramids that have conned at least Sh10 billion from gullible investors in the last five years alone.

In 2012, the then Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale proposed the Anti- Pyramid Schemes Bill, which sought to have owners of such con games fined Sh10 million and jailed for 10 years.

But before the Bill could be discussed in Parliament, it was time for elections, which meant the National Assembly was dissolved.

Under parliamentary procedure, this meant that Dr Khalwale’s Bill was overtaken by time.

Dr Khalwale won the Kakamega senatorial seat, and unfortunately no legislator took up the initiative to outlaw pyramids.

“What happened is that the Bill was overtaken by time. Usually, such good ideas are taken up by other MPs. But in this case, it appears the importance and urgency of that (pyramids) was not of interest to other members,” Dr Khalwale told the Nation.

The lack of proper laws against pyramids has come back to bite as fraudsters now hit victims in the real estate, agribusiness, cryptocurrency trading and forex trading.

Not many civilian crimes have rocked Kenya as hard as the 2005- 2007 wave of pyramids where 150,000 people came on record as having been conned of Sh8 billion.

But few crimes have also been forgotten, just as fast.

The 150,000 victims are now almost a forgotten lot.

Former Kitui West MP Francis Nyenze chaired the task force that travelled across the country on the taxpayer’s tab talking to victims with the aim of helping them recover their investments and looking to stop anyone from being trapped into pyramids in future.

Neither of the objectives has been met today and new-age pyramids are scheming billions from investors annually. In the end, the task force found that over 300 companies had robbed 148,784 people of Sh8.1 billion.

With word flying around that the CBK had frozen Sh5 billion held by the pyramids in various bank accounts, a group of 26,000 victims sued the government in 2015 seeking to be awarded the funds as compensation.

Wealthy author But the CBK has denied that it froze the money. The case comes up today for presentation of arguments.

Last year, High Court Judge Grace Nzioka ordered Spell Investment Company Limited — one of the pyramids fingered by the Nyenze task force — to refund 388 customers Sh82 million that they lost in a con game.

Victims sued the firm, the estate of its founder, Bonface Ngosia, Francisca Asembo and Robert Asembo in 2008. Francisca and Robert were sued as administrators of Mr Ngosia’s estate.

Mr Ngosia died in a road crash in June 2007. Mr Donde of DECI, who was once kidnapped by victims in the wee hours of the night and only released after paying Sh20 million, died in 2012.

Peter Ndakwe of Clip Investments, which gobbled up Sh1.9 billion, is now an author. In 2016, he was named in the Panama Papers as one of several wealthy Kenyans who hid assets in the tax haven.

Peter Ndakwe


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Lifestyle

Lupita, others pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman on what would have been his 44th birthday

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Oscar award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is among celebrities and fans who paid tribute to late actor Chadwick Boseman on his would be 44th birthday.

The Black Panther star was 43 when he lost his four-year battle with colon cancer on August 28, 2020

Boseman was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2016, according to a post on his Twitter account announcing the actor’s death.

Lupita, who played Boseman’s love interest in the “Black Panther”, shared a picture of herself and Boseman with the caption, “Deeply loved, sorely missed. #ChadwickBoseman.”

Disney honoured Boseman with a “Black Panther” themed Marvel Studios logo.

The redesigned logo could be seen by those watching “Black Panther” on Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+.

Marvel Studios further shared a video of the logo on Twitter.

Disney honoured Boseman with a “Black Panther” themed Marvel Studios logo.

The redesigned logo could be seen by those watching “Black Panther” on Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+.

Marvel Studios further shared a video of the logo on Twitter.

Actor and producer Mark Ruffalo shared a behind-the-scenes video of the cast and crew singing happy birthday to Boseman during the filming of a Marvel film. “Happy Birthday”, he captioned the video, “Thinking of your passion, love, and your light today @chadwickboseman Happy Birthday. Wishing we could time travel back to this moment.”

Rapper and actor Common tweeted “Happy Birthday King. God Bless You. Thank you for using your gift to bring light to this world. RIP.”

Many others also wished the late actor a happy birthday posthumously.


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Lifestyle

Shock as more teenagers are caught up in crime

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As Kenyans were waiting for the launch of BBI signatures collection drive, a tragic and bizarre thing happened in Kamuyu location, Machakos County.

A Class Eight pupil at Kaitha Primary School strangled her classmate to death in a suspected love triangle.

The girl who is currently in custody awaiting a mental assessment before being arraigned on Tuesday, allegedly undressed her victim to make it look like a rape after strangling her using a brown rope.

She then tucked the rope in an envelope before hiding it in a bush a few metres away from her parents’ home. The suspected murderer is 14, her victim was 15 and the boy in the middle of the love triangle 14.

“The suspect pointed out the murder weapon, a strong rope, brown in colour, which was about 150 metres away from the crime scene. The rope was hidden under dry thorny bushes after she used it to strangle the deceased,” said a police statement about the murder that has left the residents of Mwala in shock.

Committing crimes

A shocking as it is, what is of concern is not the just fact that a 14-year-old girl killed another because of a boy who was having a relationship with both of them. It is the fact that the incident happened when the whole country is witnessing a surge in incidents of minors committing crimes.

This week alone, police have arrested 105 teenagers while partying, smoking, drinking and engaging in sex orgies.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, records at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) show that 242 youth have been arrested in various towns engaging in such parties. Kisii, Homa Bay, Mararal, Nairobi, Kisumu, Webuye and Nairobi lead the country in having such parties.

And as if it not bad enough, the parties are taking place when everyone is supposed to be practising social distancing and the sale of alcohol and cigarettes is prohibited to anyone who is under 18.

What is giving law enforcement agencies sleepless nights is that there are adults luring and facilitating the youth to engage in such risky behaviours.

“It is unfortunate that such individuals are doing so not only in contravention of the law, but also ignoring the impact of their actions on the lives of minors,” said DCI George Kinoti.

“Anyone found guilty of an offence of child pornography and upon conviction will be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than six years or to a fine of not less than five hundred thousand shillings or both.”

Trafficking ring

Last weekend, Kenyans were shocked when seven teenage girls who had been reported missing by their parents in Komarock in Nairobi emerged from their hideout only to say they had been bored and sought to have some fun.

As detectives continue to pursue a suspected online trafficking ring dubbed Carty Gang, who they think lured the girls from their homes, the Sunday Nation has been told that the group usually hosts teen parties in Athi River or Obama Estate along Kangundo Road.

Teenagers are usually baited with images of previous parties on the group’s Instagram page, whose content has since been erased. The group, whose owners have not yet been found, has even offered a form of apology, which is the only thing remaining on the page.

“We would like to apologise to our fans for the inconveniences from the media,” says the group administrator.

The DCI insists it is only a matter of time before the owners of the group are arrested. The reality is that there are several adults operating alone or in groups facilitating minors to engage in vice. What is not known is how worse the situation can get.

Additionally, if you consider the number of youth who have been arrested since the beginning of the year for engaging in such risky behaviour then the problem shifts from just being a criminal matter to a moral one.

Gengetone genre

While reacting to degenerate behaviour of the youth, Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua blamed the content of today’s Kenyan pop music specifically the new Gengetone genre.

The genre, which emerged from the low-income areas of Nairobi, has in the last year become very popular among the youth with its explicit lyrics that promote promiscuity, partying, use of drugs and alcohol.

“We can’t afford to be neutral on moral issues and bad content. We can only help our youths by telling them the truth. If we fumble or become ambiguous we will confuse them. Deep down their hearts, they know they are doing wrong,” said Dr Mutua on his Twitter account.

“Artistes and the media must understand that they have the power to shape societal norms, values and character. They must behave responsibly and professionally.”

Dr Mutua who has on several occasions found himself on the wrong end for pushing for the pulling down of certain songs that he sees have crossed the red line may be right. Several studies have shown that the more importance youth place on a type of music, the more they pay attention to the lyrics.

In addition to the effect content aired by the media has on the youth, experts say the behaviour of adults also greatly influences how teenagers figure out what is wrong or right.

“The way we behave as a society plays a big role in moulding the character of children as they grow up. If for example, teenagers find crime or murder as the most prevalent thing around them, they accept it as normal and with time they start indulging in it,” says Dr Philomena Ndambuki of Kenyatta University.

“A person’s brain fully matures when they are 25. Before that what the person consumes from the adults around them will be given out as output,” she says.

The Machakos murder is not an isolated incident, continuing a trend, which peaked between 2018 and 2019 when hardly a month would pass before the country would be shocked with a riveting murder tale involving adults.

Three weeks ago, a 17-year-old boy stabbed a 20-year-old man during a fight over a woman at Ndiru Trading Centre in Rangwe, Homa Bay County, for allegedly sleeping with his wife. The encounter degenerated into a fight.

During the argument, the boy who was armed with a knife overpowered the man stabbing him twice on the back.

He then disappeared into the night and was arrested the next day from his parents’ house. Bunde can count himself lucky to be alive today after getting caught up in a love triangle with the 17-year-old boy with his wife.

by NN


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Jehovah Wanyonyi’s followers now sacrifice beer, wheat flour to their ‘god’

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Hard economic times, coupled with the mysterious disappearance of their “god”, Jehovah Wanyonyi, five years ago has pushed the followers of the Lost Israelites sect to offer a sacrifice of wheat flour mixed with margarine and alcohol instead of their usual animal offering at their shrine.

The sect’s chief priest, Eliabu Masinde, said they have been forced to embrace cheap burnt offerings involving use of alcohol and wheat flour to appease their god.

Speaking during a service at the headquarters of the sect in Chemororoch village along the boundary of Uasin Gishu and Kakamega counties, Mr Masinde,70, said the new form of offerings has now become their way of worship.

“The sacrifice that we are offering at our alter is per the direction of Jehovah Wanyonyi to us through prophet Moses. We are using wheat flour and alcohol drinks due to hard economic times that our sect is facing,” said Mr Masinde

He said the offering of one of the popular beer brands as a sacrifice should not be seen as an ungodly act, claiming that it is scriptural according to their bible.

Followers of Jehovah Wanyonyi’s Lost Israelites sect in prayer during a sacrifice offering.

Titus Ominde | Nation Media Group

Covid-19

He said the offering is in tandem with biblical teachings and has not been occasioned by the current global Covid-19 pandemic. The sect believes that the pandemic is a punishment from God targeting evil doers.

Mr Masinde, the chief priest in charge of the altar used at the shrine, said that the sacrifice — which involves the Tusker beer brand — has a sweet smelling aroma that pleases their ‘god’.

During the ceremony, Mr Masinde pours oil around the flour before setting it ablaze at their shrine which is protected with cemented wire mesh which surrounds the altar.

The elderly refuted claims that the effects of Covid-19 have led to their current way of sacrificing flour and beer to their god.

“Our members are holy people who obey the word of God and cannot be attacked by the coronavirus. The little sacrifice that we are offering to our god has no relationship with current challenges emanating from Covid-19,” said Mr Masinde.

Appeal for help

Ironically, he appealed to well-wishers to support their members meet requirements for making the sacrifices as well as building a modern place of worship.

“Just like any other church in Kenya, we call upon our leaders to support us the way they are supporting others through harambees and also buy for us animals to offer as a sacrifice,” said Mr Masinde.

Their spiritual leader, Jehovah Wanyonyi, disappeared mysteriously five years ago and is believed to have died and buried secretly.

But the question of his whereabouts angers the chief priest.

“Stop nagging me about where Jehovah is. We have nothing new to tell you at the moment. All we know is that Jehovah Wanyonyi is alive and living at a serene place and soon he will come back to take us to his holy place,” said an agitated Mzee Masinde.

The sect’s followers believe their “messiah” might have gone to visit one of his many wives and will return to his faithful.

by Nation.africa


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