Currently said to be on the run, Bamise Ajetumobi, the founder of Imagine Global Solution Limited, a company that is into a micro lending investment scheme, was accused of expending $50,000 to acquire the citizenship of the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda for himself and his family in a bid to escape the long arm of the law and the wrath of angry and frustrated investors.
The anger of the high yield-seeking investors stemmed from the loss of an estimated N22bn invested in the company established by Bamise and his wife. As claimed by the aggrieved victims, Bamise promised a bogus Return on Investment of between 3.5 and 10 per cent monthly. The funds were said to have been invested in an array of business concerns that included forex, real estate, equities and bonds, among others.
On the company’s website, investors were asked to commit N100m in exchange for a return of between 10 and 36 per cent per annum depending on the capital amount, while a six-month investment was meant to attract six to nine per cent RoI.
However, accusations of lavish lifestyle, deceit and greed, among other factors, crippled Bamise’s capacity to fulfil his promise.
Demand for transparency and accountability to determine the safety of investors’ funds marked the beginning of the collapse of his business empire.
Based on reports, Bamise had within a period of less than five years allegedly amassed so much wealth to purchase property in upscale neighbourhoods in Lagos State and beyond.
Some of the choice properties include a house on Banana Island, classified as one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the world; a plush apartment at the Oakwood Residences, 23 Cooper Street, Ikoyi, Lagos; and another at B4, Gate 3, Lafiaji Road, Victoria Crescent Estate, Olugborogon, Chevron, Lekki, Lagos.
An office located on the first floor of 83 Lewisham High Street, London, England, SE13 5JX, was also registered in the company’s name, among others. Bamise’s exotic cars were said to be worth millions of naira.
His wife, Elizabeth, was said to be one of the active members of Naija Brand Chic, a popular entrepreneur brand making waves on Instagram, and also owned a domestic staff hiring company known as Aymie Staffing Solutions.
While Bamise and his wife lurk in the ambience of his self-created safety net in another continent, frustrated investors in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, who are unrelentingly driven by a quest to bring him to justice, have reportedly sought the intervention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the International Police to track them down.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that Bamise’s network of investors were diverse and included institutions like churches, banks, groups and individuals, who invested billions of naira.
Ifunnanya Ohi, a businesswoman, who has yet to come to terms with the loss of her funds, said she was convinced that the business was legitimate even though she had her doubts. The distraught mother of two said when she heard testimonies of consistent returns, especially from friends, she went ahead to invest the N500,000 meant for an association that she belonged to.
“I am still struggling to pay back the money. My business has almost folded up and the issue has put a strain on my marriage,” Ohi lamented.
Bamise’s anecdote, among other excoriating similar scenarios perpetrated by like minded individuals, depicts one of the many mind-boggling financial scams presently rocking Nigeria.
Out of the blues, perpetrators of these fraudulent schemes begin their ill-conceived plans as idealists that sell hope of a better tomorrow to people. Meanwhile, their primary objective is mainly to rob Peter to pay Paul.
For the avoidance of doubt, some of these Ponzi gurus obtain necessary legal documents and backed by an intimidating corporate image, they launch advert campaigns and explore targeted marketing techniques.
To further legitimise their operations and to gain access to millions of people, they offer partnership deals or financial compensations to celebrities for brand endorsements.
Some others even go as far as indirectly linking their companies to highly revered priests or academics to boost investor confidence.
Offering more returns for less financial commitment, gullible potential investors induced by recoupment testaments from early investors are swayed to make monetary commitments to the investment schemes promulgated by the Ponzi gurus.
However, the circle of investments, return on investments and reinvestments into their schemes continue unabatedly until they acquire their desired financial targets.
This propels them to launch their surreptitious plans that lead to systemic collapse, causing monetary losses that plunge unfortunate investors into untold agony.
This, however, expressly depicts what many have widely termed as Ponzi schemes.
History of Ponzi schemes in Nigeria
In Nigeria, Ponzi schemes date back to the 1980s and early 1990s with the famous ‘Umana-Umana’ investment platform that held sway in Port Harcourt and Calabar, the ‘Planwell’ scheme in Edo State as well as ‘Nospecto’ in Lagos.
In November 2015, the Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox or MMM scheme, founded by Sergei Mavrodi, a convicted Russian fraudster, was launched and Nigerians were fleeced of billions of naira.
Others like Twinkas and Ultimate Cycler were later introduced between that time and 2016, but they all crashed like badly stacked packs of cards in 2017.
But as the unfolding huge financial investment losses illuminate the modus operandi of the unprincipled business persons, new strategies keep evolving and are being implemented to continually extort Nigerians.
This, to a great extent, beams the searchlight on or questions the roles of government institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, among others, in curbing the fraudulent financial platforms.
Ponzi schemes in history
However, Ponzi schemes are not limited to Nigeria as developed countries have had their fair share.
One out of the many notorious scams was perpetrated by Charles Ponzi, who became so infamous in 1920 that in years to come, his second name was used to depict fraudulent investment schemes.
According to a 1998 report published by Smithsonian Magazine, Ponzi, a dapper Italian immigrant raked in an estimated $15m in eight months by convincing Bostonian lenders that he could make them rich with investments in international postal reply coupons.
Another was Bernie Madoff, an American fraudster and financier reputed to have perfected the largest Ponzi scheme in history, worth about $64.8bn. The scam was perpetrated over the course of at least 17 years.
Madoff was a prominent philanthropist, who served on boards of non-profit institutions, many of which entrusted his firm with their endowments. The collapse and freeze of his personal assets and those of his firm affected businesses, charities and foundations around the world.
Madoff lived in Roslyn, New York, in a ranch house through the 1970s. In 1980, he purchased an ocean-front residence in Montauk, New York, for $250,000.
His other acquisitions included a 55-foot (17-metre) sport fishing yacht named Bull, residence in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, home in France and an 8,700-square-foot house in Palm Beach, Florida.
His acquisitions were auctioned by the US Marshals Service in September 2009 and he was sentenced to 150 years for money laundering, securities fraud and several other felonies.
The schemes continue to ravage Nigeria
The Ponzi gurus in Nigeria, whose names never resonated before, out of the blues had sudden lifestyle upgrades, lived lavishly in expensive apartments with their families, and dressed in the best designer collections.
For these individuals, who are mostly male and in the age bracket of 21 to 65, more was never enough and possessed by money-minded forces, they went to the extreme to satisfy their monetary acquisitions.
Allegedly blinded by greed, overwhelmed by insatiable craze for a life of luxury and determined to sustain their lives of opulence, they threw hundreds of investors, who trusted them with their hard earned money, into excruciating financial losses.
Trailed by muddied reputation, some of the Ponzi scheme operators have fled the country, while others walk freely and a few are behind bars, but yet to be formally prosecuted.
In no particular order, these are some of the Ponzi gurus:
Maxwell Odum, celebrated by Christ Embassy, lived large
Maxwell Odum, the Chief Executive Officer of MBA Trading and Capital Investment Limited, was regarded as the ‘golden boy’ of Christ Embassy International, a church headed by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, which has a huge following, especially among Nigerian youths.
Described by many as a highly successful and respected forex trader, investor and entrepreneur, Odum towered high and was courted as a great philanthropist in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Presently in hiding, he was accused of mismanaging N171bn belonging to over 70,000 investors.
Before the bubble bust, Odum allegedly lived flamboyantly on investors’ funds, invested so much in his appearance and was a big time spender.
From many of his Facebook posts, it was obvious he literally had a pact with expensive designer suits and posh automobiles.
In a post uploaded to his Facebook page on August 1, 2020, where he quoted from the Bible to encourage his followers and investors, Odum was stylishly dressed in an expensive white long tailed suit with matching bowler hat, and posed for the cameras by an exotic white sports car.
Investors alleged that Odum lived in affluence and owned several plots of land under development, especially on the Sani Abacha Road in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In November 2020, he was accorded a celebrity status at Christ Embassy, where he was declared the highest partner/donor for the second year running during the Loveworld Pastors and Partners’ Conference after donating N1bn.
For parting with such a lump sum, the Love World News, a newsletter published by the church, reported that he received a plaque and “presidential handshake” from Oyakhilome, a gesture regarded as the greatest honour and a well deserved trophy.
Scammed out of funds
According to the company’s website, it has over 10,000 active investors, 10 business locations in Nigeria, presence in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. However, its headquarters was actually located at the Blue Zodiac Complex, G.U. Ake Road, Eliozu, Port Harcourt.
MBA Trading targeted Nigerians across the country, but most of his victims were actually based in Port Harcourt.
Odum denied that the company was a Ponzi scheme and paraded it as a specialised financial establishment that could help investors to trade in forex that would yield 15 per cent return on investment every 30 days with a minimum capital investment of N360,000 and up to N5m.
Investors were hoodwinked into believing that the platform was government approved and certified by the necessary regulatory agencies like the CBN, SEC and the EFCC. This made eager investors to part with funds with a mindset to cash out big time.
Most of them claimed to have invested in the company because of some promotional publications made by major news outlets in the country, and also due to special appearances the founder, Odum, made with some revered actors like Ramsey Noah.
How it all started
Investors’ hopes were dashed after it was announced that MBA Trading had been acquired by another company, World Citizen Equity Partners, which was meant to inject more funds to grow the investment scheme.
PUNCH Investigations gathered that on October 30, 2020 after the acquisition was made public, the promised RoI ceased and investors were informed that the company was undergoing an automated system upgrade that would enable investors transact business independently without paying physical visits to the office.
Anxious investors were assured that the upgrade would take a month and that payments would resume fully on December 1, 2020.
Odum later lamented that banks and regulatory bodies were behind the delay and were frustrating the company’s efforts.
He further alleged that the firm had been defrauded by members of staff, but was quick to promise that it would add one month to investors’ existing plans to make up for the RoI that was not paid in November.
The company later insisted on refunding only the capital investment.
Tired of the litany of explanations, excuses and inability to pay, investors petitioned the Lagos State Police Command in April 2021, accusing Odum of mismanaging their funds.
It was later learnt that MBA Trading had been changed to Men in Business Thrive and Credit Cooperative Limited, and through online adverts, it was able to get new investors to put in their money, which was also never recouped.
Odum was arrested and detained by detectives from the Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, detained for about six hours and was released on bail on personal recognizance. He disappeared into thin air shortly after.
As allegations about Odum’s alleged fraudulent activities continued to mount, an ex parte motion was filed by the CBN before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on February 10, 2021, seeking an order to stop all debit transactions from the MBA accounts, where 125,397 investors deposited a total of N171, 128,219,041.
The suit with number FHC/PH/MIsC/35/2021 stated that investors from Port Harcourt made up 43.45 per cent of the total.
On February 11, 2021, the court ordered that all accounts maintained by MBA Trading in any Nigerian bank be frozen for a period of time sufficient for the apex bank to conclude its investigations into the company’s affairs. These included 39 naira bank accounts and eight dollar accounts.
While reacting to the court order, MBA Trading stated that since the matter was now sub judice, it would not make statements or take actions that would appear to interfere with ongoing investigation.
Even though MBA Trading has shut down its operational bases across the country, its Facebook page, @MbatradingCIL, remains active and its phone number was recently updated, prompting outrage from investors.
Protests had been staged several times by frustrated investors at Christ Embassy International, Port Harcourt, calling on Oyakhilome to compel Odum to refund their money. The EFCC offices have also not been spared visits by frustrated Nigerians caught in the loop.
Bamise Ajetumobi, Imagine Global Solution Limited
Like most male bankers, Bamise, whose anecdote was earlier highlighted, is suave and exudes an air of a trusted professionalism. His oratory prowess, outlandish love for God and a background in finance were what he leveraged on to gain trust and coarse investors into trusting him with their life savings.
Born in January 1986, the graduate of Banking and Finance from the Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State, was the Managing Director of Imagine Global Solution Limited, an investment platform.
Having worked in Zenith Bank Plc for eight years, he resigned in 2016 and on April 5, 2017, registered the finance start-up in Lagos and got it incorporated with registration number 1404605.
Bamise and his wife, Elizabeth, are presently on the run after allegedly defrauding investors of an estimated N22bn.
Fronting offices in London, South Africa, China, Ghana and Dubai, Bamise garnered so much trust among unwary investors looking for trusted investment opportunities.
According to its website, Imaginelenders.com, the company is a microfinance institution duly registered and licensed in Nigeria with a focus on fostering financial inclusion, by providing working capital funding to market men and women.
The company stated that its primary focus was to provide micro loans to the unbanked, small and medium scale businesses and low-income earners, and to also provide working capital and timely finance to help businesses take advantage of trading opportunities.
It also claimed to provide healthcare loans to the bottom-of-the-pyramid segment without collaterals.
Bamise also had a subsidiary company, TFS Finance Limited, which was CBN regulated to undertake the business of advancing short term loan facility, loan to finance local purchase order, lease for individual and corporate bodies.
IMG claimed that its business model was based on the TFS’s four key metrics.
To convince investors that they were real, Bamise and his wife were alleged to have presented themselves as devout Christians with genuine intent to change the face of the micro-lending sector. The couple traversed markets to give out loans to indigent traders and market women, and uploaded pictures, slides and videos of such ventures to the company’s social media handles to hoodwink investors.
On the IMG Facebook page are well-viewed, widely-shared and overly convincing public relations videos of how it has been boosting the businesses of poor traders. Also uploaded to the page are a series of training sessions carried out by supposed financial experts and motivational speakers at the company’s office located in Lekki, an upscale area of Lagos.
As it later turned out, the well-worded company’s policy statement was meant to create a perfect smokescreen for a big-time heist.
The company offered loans ranging from N10,000 to N100,000 on a 30-to-40-day cycle with interest rates that ranged from six per cent to 36 per cent, depending on the capital amount or as negotiated.
Ironically, Bamise’s first customers were his former colleagues in the bank and he was able to convince them to invest in lieu of getting 10 per cent monthly RoI.
Having seen how the RoI was being promptly paid, the ex-bankers became his foot soldiers and innocently spread words about the new ‘trusted’ investment platform in town.
Without much media publicity or branding, investors, especially those in the Diaspora, who were looking for where to invest back home, became attracted to Bamise and plunged their life savings into his investment scheme.
PUNCH Investigations gathered that prominent among those, who entrusted their funds to Bamise were branch managers of commercial banks, who convinced their customers to key into the scheme, and some prominent churches in Lagos.
Realising that his investment platform had grown exponentially in little time and that investors’ funds continued to balloon, Bamise set out on an employment chase and convinced his old colleagues at Zenith Bank to join him. He allegedly dangled in their faces irresistible mouth-watering monthly salaries up to N1m.
With the margin between what they earned and that offered by Bamise too wide, the bankers ditched their jobs.
Unaware of the sword of Damocles that hung precariously over their heads, the ex-bankers also invested heavily in the scheme.
Bamise’s ostentatious lifestyle
As investors’ money with him allegedly grew in excess of $50m, Bamise became obsessed with lifestyle upgrades to fit his billionaire status.
And in trying to keep up with the Joneses, he allegedly went on spending sprees with investors’ funds and was said to have acquired a property on Banana Island; a duplex in Victoria Crescent Estate, Olugborogon, Chevron, Lekki; and Apartment 7 Oakwood Residence, 23 Cooper Street, Ikoyi.
According to the Nigeria Property Centre on its website, the average price of houses for sale on Banana Island is N700m; the most expensive costs N6.5bn, while the cheapest costs about N37.7m.
Findings showed that an apartment in Oakwood Residence costs N12m per annum, while a duplex in Victoria Crescent Estate falls within the range of N35m and N52m, depending on the type.
Houses were also alleged to have been bought in the United Kingdom and Dubai, while over $50,000 was used to purchase the citizenship of the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda for himself, his wife and two kids.
A dedicated member and worker at Pastor Sam Adeyemi’s Daystar Christian Centre, Bamise was said to be a major contributor to the church in recent times.
As the need to consistently keep up with his lavish lifestyle grew, Bamise ran into troubled waters and could no longer sustain the monthly RoI payment to investors.
The cookies crumbled under his watch and as pressure mounted from investors, he disappeared with his family.
The company’s website, imaginelenders.com, which has been disabled, boasted of a Nigerian investor base of 90,000. However, with several people claiming to have been scammed out of various sums ranging from N1m to N500m, it remains unclear how many were lucky enough to recoup their investments before the scheme nosedived.
Following the crash, a Lagos State High Court sitting in the Osborne area of Ikoyi and presided over by Justice Toyin Oyekan-Abdullai restrained all commercial banks in the country from releasing funds totalling N11.795bn to the couple.
Meanwhile, a WhatsApp group and other forums have been set up for Bamise’s victims, most of whom claimed to have lost between N5m and N1bn to work together in recouping their investments.
Well planned and perfected escape
Our correspondent learnt that Bamise and Elizabeth had long before now hatched and perfected what could be described as one of the biggest scams in Nigeria’s history that left investors stranded and had put in place a watertight escape strategy.
Though there were speculations that the couple might have fled to London, where a branch of the company was incorporated in August 2019, their choice destination appeared to be the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, alleged to be a hidden haven for those involved in dodgy deals and financial crimes.
Their passports, which surfaced online and which PUNCH Investigations was privy to, showed that Bamise and the children procured them on April 29, 2021, while his wife got hers on May 4, 2021.
However, as it stands, the fleeing family may end up as fugitives for a long time as Antigua and Barbuda may not offer them the convivial environment they crave to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth.
This is because the country’s security agencies are ready to apprehend them once they are seen, based on the order of the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.
Giving the directive in Parliament, Browne said, “I have already put systems in place to ensure that if he (Bamise) is not here yet, they could capture him on his way here, because Antigua and Barbuda is not going to be a refuge for scamps.”
Checks on his London office incorporated revealed that though it had been running for two years, it had been dormant.
According to the website of Endole, a UK based organisation that provides business information for risk, sales, marketing and research, the latest confirmation statement submitted by IMG on August 18, 2020, indicated that the company currently has two active directors, Bamise and Elizabeth, while a Briton, Mr Sanmi Oluwaseun Adegoke, who was a director between August 11 and October 10, 2021, had resigned.
The website revealed that Bamise’s wife was born in November 1983 and is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda.
Endole stated that as at the financial year that ended on August 19, 2020, the financial statement of the company indicated the following: Total assets – £100, total liabilities – £0, net assets – £100, cash in bank – £100, employees – unreported, turnover and an unreported debt ratio of 0%.
On Imagine Global website, Zuriel Consulting Limited is listed as its secretary. When a call was placed to the firm, a young lady confirmed the information but refused to comment further on the issue.
Akor Philip Paul, Benignant Forte Nigeria Limited
Though Akor Paul was recently apprehended by the police after being on the run for months, he had been trending with investors calling for his head for allegedly mismanaging N10bn.
His company, Benignant Forte Nigeria Limited, has its headquarters in Jabi, Abuja, and branches in Onitsha, Abia, Lagos and Dubai.
According to its website, it is into real estate development, logistics, haulage, hospitality, agro-allied services and transportation.
Akor’s background showed that he was not born with the proverbial silver spoon.
The third of five children was born in Ajegunle, Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos State. His father, Nathaniel, was a senior administrator at the Nigerian Ports Authority.
The native of Kogi State is a Sociology graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna.
He also obtained degrees in Industrial Sociology from the IBB University, Lapai, Niger State, and African Politics, Art and Economics from Newcastle University, England.
On the profile page of Akor Philip Paul – Cosmopolitan, he claimed to have worked variously as a sales representative, marketing manager, site manager, office administrator, general manager, manager and group general manager at Chinmark Homes & Shelters Limited, a real estate and civil engineering firm.
From all indications and based on pictures uploaded to his Facebook page, Akor lived a lavish lifestyle, bought expensive wristwatches, clothes, shoes and automobiles.
In one of the posts, he stood by a white classic automobile in a vast compound.
His wife, Tabitha Princess Kofi’s Facebook page further gave a glimpse into their lavish lifestyle, especially their palatial residence with intricate designs, posh furniture and fittings. It also revealed their taste for good fashion.
To promote his investment scheme, Akor made use of artistes, popular skit makers and comedians. One of those, who vibrantly promoted the scheme and was also its brand ambassador, was Anita Asuoha, the comedienne known by the stage name, Real Warri Pikin.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that Akor, who described himself as a profitable salesman and cosmopolitan, reneged on promises to pay investors RoI of six to 15 per cent, but got married to Tabitha Edet on July 3, 2021, with a cake alleged to have cost N4.5m, while N45m was also alleged to have been used for wedding preparations.
Evidence of payment for the wedding cake and pictures were displayed on the Facebook page of the Chief Executive Officer of Fab Que, Queen Oluchi Duruibe, who was accused of promoting the fraudulent investment scheme as its brand ambassador.
According to a disclaimer post where she tried to distance herself from the company’s activities, Duruibe noted that Akor appeared to be running crowdfunding and did not have any intention of running a business that would yield daily returns to guarantee payment to investors.
It was reliably gathered that in June before the outlandish wedding, investors had started complaining about receiving their RoI late, but were told that the delay was due to network challenges.
The RoI payment was later stopped for old investors, while new ones that came on board through the company’s promo and who were unaware that the scheme had run aground were paid, while their capital was used to pay old investors.
Before now, Akor’s whereabouts were unknown, but on October 28, 2021 around 11.56am, he went live on Facebook, where he claimed to be sick and promised investors that they would soon be paid and in an ascending order.
Akor, who tried frantically to evoke pity by showing off treatment patches on his hand and chest, appealed for calm and assured investors that he was not on the run.
He came live again on October 31, promising to return to Nigeria to resolve the issue and liquidate the company’s assets to pay investors.
Dominic Joshua, Brisk Capital Limited
At 21, Dominic Joshua is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Brisk Capital Limited, a company that presents itself as an investment fund manager and promises investors 60 per cent RoI every month and return of the initial capital invested in Bitcoin, forex, real estate, oil and gas.
He promised investors huge pay days, return of investment capitals and brand new cars.
On its website, https://www.briskcapitallimited.com, the firm was described as a “visionary group of companies with an ecosystem that identifies opportunities in the African market.”
Young, full of zest and youthful exuberance, Joshua was the life of the party in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. He was a big spender and frequented nightclubs, where he was accorded full celebrity status.
As a silky, smooth operator with suave persuasive personality, he, without arousing any form of suspicion, successfully scammed 500 people out of N2bn by leveraging on social media platforms and the mainstream media to get them to invest in a wide range of phantom business opportunities.
The money was allegedly used to finance his extravagant lifestyle, acquire exotic automobiles, wristwatches, shoes, houses and to host lavish parties, where rave-making artists were routinely invited to perform.
The young CEO, on his LinkedIn account, claimed to have attended the University of Calabar from 2017 to 2021, and worked for 10 years, even though no records of his employers existed.
“In my 10 years of practice, I’ve discovered that investing right demands proportionate deployment of audacity and insight,” he stated on his profile.
A careful scrutiny of Joshua’s social media handles showed that he is no small mind as he intelligently conceptualised ideas that could easily attract the attention of an average Nigerian looking for lucrative investment opportunities.
His investment offers set up to lure Nigerians include Cultivate Africa, a full range agricultural brand; Herbert and Hana, a premium unisex fashion brand; Mouves, a transportation model; Dekoora, an interior decorating and office re-modelling brand; Krazi Kravins and Chow City, food brands; Creatv Box and Alpatech Gadgets, tech platforms; and finally, Envyha Beauty Brand.
The company’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, https://www.instagram.com/Briskcapital and https://twitter.com/briskcapitalLTD were last updated in March 2021 and are filled with professionally taken pictures and well-articulated captions of his products and business ideas.
One of his posts read, “Sometimes we are patient enough to make the findings that clear our doubts, other times we risk it all in belief of our expectations. There may be no rigid rule when it comes to investments, but you can always take the approach we’ve shared today. This is your week. Win!!!”
This and more worked magic because an investor like Faith Balogun told our correspondent that she was wooed by the inspirational quotes and professionalism displayed by the company and parted with N300,000 for a promised RoI of 30 per cent on the capital to be paid for in three consecutive months.
Sadly, after Balogun received her initial capital and RoI for the first month, she was convinced to invest another N700,000.
“Unknown to me, that was the end of my interaction with them as none of my correspondence with the firm was answered. I had to cut my losses and move on. It has not been easy since then,” Balogun said.
Following the CBN directive to banks and other financial institutions prohibiting transactions and exchanges in crypto currencies and for such accounts to be closed, Joshua took to his Facebook page on February 12, 2021, claiming that his company was not affected.
He made investors understand that with its numerous business channels, Brisk Capital’s 12-business structure was capable of fulfilling its quick, easy and secure investment promises.
In what could be described as a daring act, on February 16, the company announced new investment opportunities that further attracted investors and more funds were remitted. Unknown to them, the move was his last harvest.
After posting some teasers on its official Instagram page, @brisk.investments, on March 22, asking investors what they did with their RoIs, no other form of communication has been initiated by the company with the investors.
In May and after two months of disappearing with investors’ funds, Joshua was arrested by the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force in Lagos, while attempting to leave the country.
This followed a petition filed by Anekwe Chive of Chive GPS, a security firm contracted by some investors to track him and retrieve their trapped funds.
Chive revealed that after a demand notice was issued to Joshua and he did not respond, a petition was filed at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, which made the SFU to arrest him.
According to the Commissioner of Police in charge of the SFU, Joshua admitted to defrauding over 500 investors, but appealed for time to pay back. The properties and luxury items, which he purchased, were recovered and listed as exhibits.
He said the funds were diverted to sponsor extravagant lifestyles, parties, exotic cars, luxury watches, and real estates in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Though the police gave an assurance that Joshua would be charged after the strike action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria was called off, there has been no new development on the case since the judicial workers resumed.
A mug shot of him holding a board with the charges levelled against him and dated May 1, 2021 was released by the police.
Harrison Osemwengie, HO Corn Farm
With a state-of-the-art office located on the third floor of the Africa Re-Insurance Building, Karimu Kotun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Harrison Osemwengie, the founder of HO Corn, a digital agricultural investment firm, was able to convince potential investors that he meant business.
Though much of his personal life is shrouded in secrecy, he was among the new crop of Nigerians who used crowdfunding to finance farming businesses with promises of bogus RoI.
To avoid scrutiny, he had a handful of employees and operated like a real investment firm.
It was gathered that the company started operations in 2017, but limited its offerings to a few individuals, but went public due to the need for more capital to support its acclaimed 30,000 acres of corn farm in Ofiki, Atisbo Local Government Area of Oyo State.
The bearded Harrison with afro-like haircut exuded so much confidence and poise on broadcast media each time he talked about his investment platform and how an outrageous 50 per cent RoI would be paid after six months upon the maturity of investments.
Bolstered by the media hype, Harrison touted HO Corn as Nigeria’s largest maize farm that produces and processes superior fresh and dry corn for the domestic market.
To ward off any form of suspicion and sustain trust, the company ensured consistent correspondence with investors and periodically sent pictures of vast and flourishing corn plantations.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that while the scam lasted, the human traffic of existing and potential investors to the firm’s Lagos office was unprecedented.
HO’s failed promises
However, by July 2020, worried investors began to complain about the non-payment of the promised RoI, thus casting a doubt on the reputation and authenticity of HO Corn.
The company assured investors that they would get their RoI in August, it blamed the inability to pay on the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The August promise was later extended to December with pledges to give capital and interest to investors.
Aside from not fulfilling its end of the bargain, HO Corn allegedly barred investors from commenting on its Instagram page and hired proxy agents to discredit and counter negative comments about the company on its Facebook page.
By the time the company vacated its office on Victoria Island, the investors were unaware.
Harrison later told investors that one of the reasons why HO Corn had been unable to pay was the paucity of buyers for produce harvested from the 30,000-acre farmland, which he touted as one of Africa’s massive cornfields. However, findings revealed that to be untrue.
While Harrison has remained elusive, PUNCH Investigations learnt that petitions against his company from investors continue to pile up at the EFCC office in Lagos. Meanwhile, others have resorted to self-help by taking to various social media handles to call out Harrison and also to seek advice from Nigerians on how to recover their funds.
Adewale Jayeoba, Wales Kingdom Capital Limited
After registering a commodity and currency trading company called Wales Kingdom Capital Limited in March 2019, Adewale Jayeoba, also known as Daniel Wales, allegedly defrauded investors to the tune of N40bn by wooing them with a promise of 25 per cent monthly RoI.
The company, which he claimed was into forex trading, was located on the MKO Abiola Way, by the NNPC Mega Station, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The phony forex firm later turned out as a family business, with Emmanuel, Jayeola’s father, occupying the position of a director.
The RoI payment was prompt until December 7, 2020, when Jayeoba announced that the company would not be able to pay returns for the month.
He went on to release a video on January 31, 2021, claiming that he made the investment risk-free with a mindset that he had good strategies to avert losses.
The businessman said he regretted not letting investors know that there could be a possibility of a partial or total loss of capital during trading.
Jayeoba attributed the company’s major capital loss to unstable market conditions brought about by the pandemic and other things.
Though he was optimistic that the company would stage a comeback with investors getting back their money, he, however, said 100 per cent capital refund might not be immediately feasible.
His promise to release the percentage of capital to be refunded to every investor by February 1 was not kept, prompting some investors to sue the company to court.
An order to freeze the company’s accounts was obtained pending when investigation would be completed.
In June, following multiple petitions, the Lagos zonal office of the EFCC arrested and paraded Jayeoba’s parents and accused them of conspiring with their son to defraud people of N935m.
It was discovered that Jayeoba’s father operated five bank accounts and had received close to N18.4m, while his mother operated six bank accounts and had received close to N917m as proceeds from the company’s fraudulent transactions.
Jayeoba, who is believed to be hiding in an African or Asian country, recently made three Instagram posts in which he assured investors of not backing down until he finds a way out of the crisis and that he was not on the run.
Amos Olaniyan, DHIL Nigeria Limited
His case may be described as that of a small fry when compared to others, who scammed unsuspecting Nigerians.
Understanding the power of the media and the reach, 43-year-old Olugbenga Olaniyan leveraged on these to allegedly swindle members of the public out of N128m through his Ponzi scheme that was made public in 2020.
Through his company, DHIL Nigeria Limited, also called Crime Alert Security Network Investment, the Ibadan-based businessman promised investors 30 per cent RoI every six weeks.
The company, which he claimed was into importation of tyres and car accessories, advertised its irresistible investment offers weekly on Inspiration 100.5FM and King FM in Ibadan.
To ensure that his investment platform appeared real and to convince intending investors, who wanted to satisfy their curiosity about the legitimacy of the company, Olaniyan cited an office with staff members in Iyana Igbala, along Iwo Road, Ibadan.
However, as soon as hundreds of investors keyed in and funds started flowing into the company’s coffer, Olaniyan became an automobile freak and bought five cars in quick succession.
He also acquired three landed properties in choice areas and lavished people’s hard earned money on designer items.
Just like others before him, Olaniyan reneged on the payment of the RoI, and after waiting endlessly to get back their capital, investors petitioned the EFCC and he was arrested on May 28, 2021.
Findings by the anti-graft agency showed that Olaniyan operated a classic Ponzi scheme and his firm was never registered with the CBN as a financial institution.
He later filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the EFCC and sought N20m compensation for alleged infringement on his rights as well as a public apology.
The suit was dismissed by Justice Iyabo Yerima of the Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan as lacking in merit.
Miebi Bribena, Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society
On its official website, the Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society, owned by Miebi Bribena, a pastor at Christ Embassy Church, was advertised as a confluence of prosperity dedicated to improving lives through financial empowerment, housing and scholarship schemes.
However, as it later turned out, the Peoples Democratic Party chieftain only used his position as a clergy to earn the trust of over 40,000 investors, who allegedly lost billions of naira to his company.
The company, with headquarters on Otiotio Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, promised investors 25 per cent RoI every month.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that at the end of every six months or a year, there was supposed to be a return of capital to investors, which could still be reinvested.
Sadly, hundreds of investors, including those living with disabilities, never got the RoI or the capital, which they were told was traded on forex platforms.
Most of them, who chose to be anonymous, lamented that they invested between N100, 000 and N11m in the company.
In April, the company suspended its activities, explaining that it encountered challenges on its trading platform.
Not long after, news filtered in that some staff members of the company stole over N500m, but Bribena assured investors that the firm would commence payment in batches from July 19, but by the end of September, no payment had been made.
Petitions filed with the EFCC led to the sealing off of Baraza’s office in Yenagoa, while the company’s account was also frozen.
Dapo Abiola, Voltac Global Capital
Voltac Global Capital, a finance and asset management company owned by businessman, Dapo Abiola, was accused of defrauding investors of N1.8bn.
When in May 2020, he founded the VGC, an asset management and finance company, he promised a grandiose monthly RoI of 20 per cent on all investments.
The offer was too good to be true and attracted several investors, including students.
For a while, the VGC kept to its end of the bargain until January 2021, when it came up with excuses and stopped paying investors after a certain Joshua Kayode, the founder of Quintessential Investment Company, allegedly traded with a major share of the company’s fund and failed to remit $4m.
Pestered by inpatient investors, VGC sent out a memo on March 5 on its intention to start paying returns in April. It, however, kept the development a secret.
Despite the CEO’s video apologies, where he assured investors of their funds’ safety, the company could not keep to its promise and this it communicated through a memo on March 31.
The memo stated that the Federal Government’s ban on crypto currencies affected its funds in February and led to panic withdrawal by investors.
Investors were shocked to learn about Kayode, a total stranger’s involvement in the company’s finances and the ongoing EFCC probe.
Helpless at that point, VGC appealed for help from investors willing to assist with the recovery of funds.
Through a memo issued on September 2, the company informed investors that Kayode was being investigated by the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department and had been charged.
The company also revealed that due to a court order obtained by some investors to freeze its account, it was impossible to carry out any transaction or pay the RoI.
Investors became perplexed when the company revealed that it had exhausted all means of returning their capital and that some employees would be disengaged.
Findings by PUNCH Investigations revealed that Kayode is a 22-year-old, who allegedly had been involved in fraudulent activities in the past.
On August 11, he was arraigned on 170 counts bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretences before the Federal High Court in Lagos. He was alleged to have defrauded 170 persons of N10.8bn under a fake investment scheme and admitted to bail in the sum of N2bn.
Before then, on April 6, Kayode and the Chief Operating Officer of his company, Asunde Osiro, were arrested by the police over a N130m fraud allegation.
Though not much of a lavish lifestyle was traceable to him on his social media handles, he exuded affluence in his Facebook profile picture and in another, uploaded on June 23, where he was dressed in cream native attire and dark suit, respectively.
Kayode boasted of being the best forex trader with the best trading results on his LinkedIn profile.
Anyanso Mma, TheMap
With a mouth-watering offer of RoI, Anyanso Mma allegedly scammed investors of N7.5bn through TheMap, a company he started in 2018. Investors were promised attractive returns on a weekly and monthly basis, depending on their agreement with the firm.
Described as the alter ego of the company, he actively sought investors through appearances on podcasts, radios and Instagram live, where he engaged prominent social media influencers.
Findings revealed that the logistics/bike investment scheme, where an investors’ capital was used to buy motorbikes for logistics and delivery business, and which paid a weekly return of at least N30,000, was the company’s most patronised scheme.
Based on subsisting agreements, at the end of the year, the bike would be sold as a fairly used commodity and the company would take 10 per cent of the proceeds, while the remaining would go to the investor.
Prompt payment of returns from this particular portfolio attracted massive referrals.
For close to two years, things were fine until a new investment scheme called, Customer Relationship Management Investment, was introduced by the company.
It was gathered that the scheme suddenly hit a brick wall and by September 2020, a month after the CRMI was introduced, TheMap stopped paying investors.
In October 2020, the company attributed the non-payment to oversubscription by investors and hinted of plans to return excess capital before resuming the RoI payment. No investor got paid till date, it was learnt.
Petitions by investors to the EFCC led to the arrest of Mma in December 2020, but he was released after three weeks without prosecution and subsequently went into hiding.
From his hideout, Mma was alleged to have informed investors that the real estate business, which he injected profits from the CRMI platform into and which could have been sold to return their capital, was seized by the EFCC.
Till date, Mma, whose Facebook page is still very active, has not been able to provide proof of the property seized by the commission to investors.
Sam Afolabi, Eatrich
Sam Afolabi sold an agricultural business scheme, Eatrich Integrated Farms, to Nigerians with a promise of 30 to 35 per cent returns on the capital for three consecutive months.
On the company’s Facebook page, it described itself as an agricultural-based business located in Ilorin, Kwara State.
One project that massively attracted investors was the ‘Green Africa Project’, which he cleverly coined to assume a universal and acceptable façade.
The GAP, which according to Afolabi, is a response to the yearning of many Nigerians that wish to sit in the comfort of their homes to have their money multiplied, was compartmentalised into three different phases based on its worked-out plan for each year.
He explained that phase one was meant to focus on fish farms, while phases two and three would be for livestock and pig farming.
Afolabi explained, “What we’re saying is that we’ll set up a fish farm for you with a one-time investment of N9.5m.
“Each investor has nine ponds, and each pond has 800 fishes. Invariably, you’re going to have 7,200 fishes at harvest. Every circle, we get to harvest 7,200 for you. Sold at market price of N700 each, that is good money. Every harvest, you earn N1m. And a fish farm circle is six months. So, in a year, we’re going to have two circles. With a one-time investment of N9.5m, you’re going to be earning N2m every year for 20 years.
“However, in the first year, we’re going to have to spend six months in set-up. So you’re going to earn for just one circle, which is N1m. But from year two to year three, you’re going to earn N2m for each year. So in total, you’re going to be earning N39m with a one-time investment of N9.5m.”
It sounded too good to be true and to convincingly sell the scheme, he used some celebrities and Nollywood actors as bait. The gimmick worked as hundreds of investors in Lagos and Ibadan, Oyo State, where their branch was located, remitted over N1bn within five years.
Afolabi also sold to investors a lofty dream of constructing an eight-storey Eatrich Ultra Mall to be called the ‘The Greatness Place’ and called for more investment.
However, after several investors failed to access their funds, it became obvious that something was wrong.
Some victims revealed that reality dawned on them after it was discovered that the company’s Ikoyi office was locked, while Afolabi could no longer be reached on the phone.
Ironically, those who suffered double jeopardy were staff members, who aside from working tirelessly to convince the public to invest, also invested their life savings.
Detained for demanding investment funds
When it became obvious that their investment had gone down the drain, some of the employees and investors went to protest at the Lagos office located on Isaac John Street, Ikeja GRA, but were allegedly arrested by police officers attached to the Area ‘F’, Lagos State Police Command Headquarters and detained on the orders of the company’s Group Managing Director, Bisi Dazuza.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that some of the investors wrote a petition to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon, Ikoyi, but that despite the move, the whereabouts of Afolabi remained shrouded in mystery.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page called ‘Exposing Sam Afolabi’s scam schemes’ has been created by victims with a view to recouping their funds.
I am also a victim – GM, Eatrich
Meanwhile, the General Manager of Eatrich Farms, Dazuza, who was accused of ordering the arrest of the protesting investors and ex-workers, claimed to have called the police to safeguard her life after she was viciously attacked.
She claimed the ex-employees, who attacked her, were laid off for incompetency.
“I didn’t call the police on the platform of Eatrich. The arrest was to guarantee my safety. After beating me, they (ex-workers) threatened to kill me. They maliciously damaged my car and removed the side mirrors. It was my personal car and not the official car. My N500,000 was also stolen. It was my lawyer that got them arrested,” she said.
Dazuza described herself as a victim of Eatrich’s alleged scam, noting that the company still owed her two months’ salary.
She said, “When I resumed, I requested for the letters of appointment of all the staff members, only to discover irregularities. They had access to money and spent it recklessly without approval.
“I discovered that the accountant was not professionally qualified for the office, while the young men leading the teams were drug addicts brought from different places. I had to put a process in place as an administrator and they didn’t like it.
“These employees never kept to the resumption time and because they were being locked out, they resigned on their own volition. Because they had at some point brought people to invest, they now came with the investors to attack me. I had to leave Eatrich and the firm still owes me N1.6m as two months’ salary.
Real Warri Pikin reacts
The comedienne, the Real Warri Pikin, linked to Benignant Forte Nigeria Limited, has appealed to Nigerians for forgiveness.
She admitted to being the company’s ambassador and that the contractual agreement was signed on April 3, 2021.
She stated, “Within the six months that I worked with the company, I only saw Mr Philips five times. Our relationship was official. I was just an ambassador to the brand. My team and I had a series of meetings with him and he showed us certifications from regulators, including SEC, the CBN and the ICPC. There were also faces to the company’s brands and physical offices with staff. The fact that the RoI was low was another factor that made me believe in the scheme and agreed to work with them.
“I am really traumatised. To think that these people invested in this company because of me is very painful. Considering the fact that my fans put in so much money despite the biting economic situation of the country gives me pain. I can’t function properly again and I am begging for forgiveness.”
The comedienne revealed that she had to cancel an upcoming show slated for December 5 because of the development.
Oluchi Duruibe keeps mum
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of Fab Que, Queen Oluchi Duruibe, who was alleged to have also promoted Benignant Forte Nigeria Limited as its brand ambassador, refused to respond to messages sent to her via Facebook Messenger.
No business link to MBA Forex – Ramsey Noah
Ramsey Noah, on his part, distanced himself from the activities of MBA Trading and Capital Investment Limited.
While speaking with our correspondent, the actor said he was contacted to be a brand ambassador but that the agreement was never concluded.
“Unfortunately, I have no business link with the company. We were supposed to work together but it didn’t sail through,” he added.
Fate of assets if caught
On what would become of properties seized from the arrested and possibly convicted Ponzi gurus, a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said any action taken had to be done based on a court order.
He explained that security agencies, including the EFCC, could not take possession of citizens’ property without a court order, noting that doing so would violate the right to property guaranteed by the constitution.
The public affairs commentator noted that the EFCC Act contained a process known as forfeiture, adding that when a forfeiture order was obtained, the anti-graft agency could take possession of properties linked to the suspects.
He explained, “Forfeiture can be made in furtherance of an investigation. When it is determined that the properties are proceeds of crime, or acquired with funds of investors, the EFCC can apply to the court for forfeiture.
“In such circumstances, the victims are entitled to some form of reparation. If it is shown that a particular person acquired properties with the money of investors, those properties can be liquidated to repay the investors by an order of the court. It is not proper to say such properties should be forfeited to the Federal Government, because they were not acquired with money belonging to the Federal Government.
“There are provisions for restitution. Victims are entitled to restitution under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2011. That is if charges are served against the accused, the court can make an order based on conviction that the assets earlier forfeited or confiscated should be disposed and the proceeds thereof be remitted to victims whose funds were used to acquire the properties. That is known as restitution and it is permissible under the law.
“It is also possible that after the individuals have been arrested, for the EFCC to act as some form of intermediary between the investors and the investment companies, to say that having recovered these assets, reach an agreement whether to formally or through a plea bargain when the charge is filled, to have the properties disposed off, so that the actual owners can get restitution.”
Effiong noted that beyond the criminal dimension, victims of such schemes could also take advantage of a civil dimension to get justice.
He said, “The victims can come together to file a representative action in court and while doing so, obtain a Mareva injunction, which is a type of interlocutory injunction that prevents a defendant or respondent from dealing with the whole or part of the assets involved, including money in banks, while legal proceedings are ongoing. If the case is determined in favour of investors, the court can make an order to dispose of the assets in favour of those that sought relief in court.”
The human rights lawyer, however, blamed the challenges encountered by victims while seeking reprieve in court on security agencies, noting that they were not very proficient in handling investment scheme cases.