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Ponzi Scheme: How Couple Defrauded Victims Of N555.82m- EFCC

An operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Vincent Kwanbuge has narrated to a Federal High Court in Lagos how a couple, Oladeji and Omotayo Henry allegedly defrauded their victims of N555.82 million.

Kwanbuge, who is the last prosecution witness in the case, told the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Dada that the couple lured their victims by promising them that they will receive a 15 per cent return on investment on every amount they invested within 30 days.

In his testimony, he likened the whole investment scheme to a Ponzi scheme whose ultimate goal was to defraud its “investors”.

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They were arraigned before the court alongside their company, Built Global Concepts, on seven-count charge of conspiracy and stealing.

The EFCC had claimed that the defendants sometime in 2018, converted the sum of N410.17 million belonging to Smart Investors’ Club to their personal use.

The anti-graft agency also alleged that sometime in 2018, the couple and their company converted the sum of N70 million belonging to one Julius Ekonorue to their personal use.

The prosecutor, Bilkisu Buhari also told the judge that the defendants also converted the sum of N15 million belonging to one Adebola Omotosho and also the sum of N21.3 million belonging to one Teniola Reuben to their personal use.

The offences were said to be contrary to sections 411, 280(2)(f), 280(1)(b) and 287 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

While being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Kwanbuge said that the EFCC received a petition in July 2019 written by Oludare Falana on behalf of 24 victims of the defendants alleging the fraudulent diversion of their money by the defendants.

The EFCC operative testified that, “we started an investigation and the two defendants were arrested on the 3rd of September 2019 in Lagos.

“Upon the execution of a search warrant, some vital documents were recovered, and letters of investigation activities were written and sent to banks, the Corporate Affairs Commission, MBA Forex.”

“In the course of the search, documents of landed property worth about N80 million were recovered from their residence, believed to have been procured through money obtained from their alleged victims.

“Part of the money obtained from their victims was also invested in another company called MBA Forex,” the witness stated.

Kwanbuge further alleged that Built Global Concepts Limited was solely owned by the couple.

He also testified that the defendants created a WhatsApp group, Smart Investors Club, which they used to communicate with their victims, the “investors”.

The witness informed the court that the phone of one of the complainants was analysed and the various communications in the group were screenshots and printed out.

He said that the group was created by the defendants and the investors were assured of the integrity of their funds, both the interest and the principal.

“They were assured that they will receive a 15 per cent return on investment of every amount invested within 30 days.

“That particular WhatsApp group was also a tool used to lure the ‘investors’ to invest their money.

“It was a closed group and only the admin officers who were the defendants could post there, and they are the ones that add someone to the group and you can’t be added unless you are an investor.”

Thereafter, the prosecution tendered the printed documents from WhatsApp as evidence, and they were admitted as Exhibit P15.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Adeola Onikosi, the witness insisted that the defendants diverted the money of the “investors” to their personal use and only paid them returns in the early part just to lure them to invest more and bring more investors.

When asked about one Abiodun Semawon Henry, a “lead trader” in cryptocurrency, which the investment was said to involve, the witness said, “My lord this is a trader we have never seen, and when those investors were investing their money, with Smart Investors Club, none of the admins, being the defendants stated to them that another person is going to be involved.

“The only thing I know about the Semawon is that the defendants said that they gave him the money, yet they could not provide his location yet he is a brother to one of the defendants and an in-law to one of the defendants.

“Even the defendants claimed that they don’t know his whereabouts, yet they gave him millions of naira that don’t belong to them.

“It was when some of the investors started to request for their principal that was when the issue of a third party came in. At the outset, they were not informed that their money will be passed to someone else.

“So the defendants lured them into the investment with fraudulent intention.”

Thereafter, the prosecution closed its case and Justice Dada adjourned the matter to June 28 for the defence to open it’s case.

17th April 2024
Nigerian Pantagraph