Tens lose cash to online forex trading cheats

Timothy Mugunde thought he had found the perfect place to invest part of proceeds from his business.

With a monthly return of 10 per cent on his savings, the online forex trade was netting him much more than he was getting from Treasury bills, “which did not seem to give a good return on investment”, Mr Mugunde, who is a businessman in Siaya, told the  Sunday Nation.

He had met Mr Joshua Muthee Kiura, who claimed to be an online forex exchange broker, through an existing client.

Under the Forex Investment Agreement that they signed, Mr Kiura would be paying interest on the investment at the rate of 10 per cent per month between the fifth and the 10th of every month for a period of 12 months.

With such a sweet deal, Mr Mugunde decided to test the waters with an initial investment of Sh100,000, which was deposited in Mr Kiura’s bank account at Standard Chartered Bank in September 2018.

Initially, Mr Mugunde says Mr Kiura kept his promise and paid the interest without fail on the tenth of every month.

But the honeymoon seemed to be over since, as soon as he had deposited the Sh2.2 million into Mr Kiura’s account, he received the interest for February 2019 but from March, things took a worrying turn. Mr Kiura started delaying the payments, claiming that he had lost some profits because of Brexit.

Within no time, communication with Mr Kiura ended and he did not respond to text messages or answer calls. He had told Mr Mugunde that he was in the US and even gave him a US phone number that he could be reached on but that too went silent.

“I travelled to Nairobi and went to the DCI offices in Kiambu County and gave them all the relevant documents but they wanted to be bribed, money which I did not have,” said Mr Mugunde.

He also reported the matter to Hardy Police Station OB. No. 17/29/10/2019. Nothing has ever come out of the investigations the police promised. He now estimates that his investment of Sh2.3 million has grown to Sh4.7 million but the prospect of ever getting back his money has all but diminished as Mr Kiura remains unreachable and his parents, who are church ministers, as well as other family members, who he had introduced to the investors, remain guarded on his whereabouts.

Mr Mugunde’s story is the story of tens of Kenyans who have lost money after investing with Mr Kiura, who then disappeared.

Mr Elijah Gakuya, a teacher in Nairobi, had invested Sh532,000 with Mr Kiura. In fact, it is Mr Gakuya who introduced Mr Mugunde to Mr Kiura. He had also introduced two other people to the man. He got to know Mr Kiura through the latter’s aunt.

Then there is Mr Japheth Kaeke Musyoka, who put in Sh9 million, which he has now lost.

“I had resigned from my job to start a business. I handed to him (Mr Kiura) all my benefits on the promise of good returns,” said Mr Musyoka.

Stephen Kamau had invested Sh100,000 and expected to top up. He received payments for just two months before things changed and Mr Kiura disappeared.

“When there were delays in receiving payments, he explained that the reason was Brexit. It wasn’t long before he went silent and blocked some of us so that we couldn’t reach him on phone,” said Mr Kamau. On the list of the victims of Mr Kiura is a Zimbabwean woman and two Congolese nationals.

Complaints against Mr Kiura have been reported at Kiserian Police Post (OB No. 25/22/8/19), Hardy Police Station (OB. No. 17/29/10/2019) and Central Police Station (OB. No. 90/05/11/2019), but investigations have not moved an inch. Things are the same at the DCI headquarters, where the officers who were assigned the case reportedly went silent on the complainants and nothing has ever come out.

Attempts to reach Mr Kiura to respond to the many allegations against him did not bear fruit as he did not respond to WhatsApp calls and messages, as well as an email the Sunday Nation sent to him.

Mr Kiura’s alleged fraud scheme is one of the ways in which  Kenyans are losing money to unscrupulous individuals and firms claiming to be online forex brokers.

There is Goldvest Ltd, which has disappeared with more than 30 investors’ money after promising safe and attractive returns. Goldvest was promising between 90 and 270 per cent interest, depending on the duration of one’s investment.

For a 90-day investment, the estimated interest rate was between 90 and 100 per cent, for 120 days the rate was between 180 and 220 per cent while those who left their money in the scheme for a year were to earn interest of between 250 and 270 per cent. The minimum one could invest was $2,000 (Sh200,000). Mr Kiura was asking for Sh100,000 as the minimum one could invest.

Meanwhile, businessman Manases Karanja has been charged with the offence of obtaining money by false pretence and running an illegal online forex business through InterWeb Global Fortune Limited, where he is a director.

As fraudsters use online forex trading to con unsuspecting investors, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) says it has licensed only three online foreign exchange brokers as provided for in the Capital Markets (Online Foreign Exchange Trading) Regulations, 2017.

These are EGM Securities Limited (Trading as FXPesa), SCFM Limited (trading as Scope Markets), and Pepperstone Markets Kenya Limited.

“The authority also relies on alerts from stakeholders on the existence of unlicensed entities. Investors are invited to confirm the legitimacy of firms offering capital markets services and products through reference to the list of licensed firms on the authority’s website. The authority is also available on social media platforms to respond to any issues,” the CMA said in response to questions sent to them by the Sunday Nation.

With just three licensed online foreign exchange brokers, it means many Kenyans who have put their money in the trade could be dealing with fraudsters.

CMA says investors who trade through unlicensed entities and lose money have no recourse.

“If cases are brought to our attention and we establish there are crimes that may have been committed, we engage the criminal investigation and public prosecution agencies to follow up on such matters,” the authority said.

The CEO of Scope Markets Kenya, Mr Kevin Ng’ang’a, said the proliferation of unlicensed foreign exchange brokers offering products and services in the Kenyan market is a threat to the licensed players.

“Following a market survey, we estimate that over 400,000 Kenyans are investing through unlicensed online foreign exchange brokers outside Kenya. In contrast, the licensed online foreign exchange brokers have around 60,000 clients. This is unfortunate since Kenyans investing through the unlicensed online foreign exchange are exposed to risks as most of the unlicensed entities do not even have a physical presence in Kenya,” said Mr Ng’ang’a.

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