BY SAM ALFAN.
A 57-year-old investor has told a Nairobi court how he lost thousands of dollars to gold scammers who promised him good returns.
Testifying in a case where Samir Munyinyi is charged with defrauding Muhummet Murtoglu of Ksh25.7 million, Irvin Van Lommen, the CEO of Global invest Luxembourg S.A recalled how they arrived in Kampala, Uganda with his business associate Muhummet in search of investment opportunities.
He said he intended to invest in real estate, waste management and solar energy in March last year. They however, fell victim international gold scammers who prey on investors.
The businessman told Principal magistrate Kenneth Cheruiyot that during their stay in Kampala, they met with several business people and some of them offered business opportunities in gold export.
He told the court they later returned to Europe but his colleague, Muhummet returned to Kampala at a later date, to continue with their gold business.
Lommen testified that on March 12, 2018, Muhummet called him in his office in Belgium and informed me that he had concluded a contract for exporting gold. He said his partner told him that they would be buying the precious stones from a person known as Cyprian Kashindi through his company identified as Folk Moon, located in Kampala.
He said he transfered the money from his account which was to be used to buy 200 kilograms of gold.
After the payment was made, the seller (Folk moon) later changed the plan stating that he had encountered a problem and could not export from Kampala but would do it from Nairobi.
He told the court that they were referred to another lawyer in Nairobi known as Thomas Otieno. They were informed that besides being a a good advocate, Otieno was a good friend.
In April, they travelled to Nairobi together with his business partner to conclude the business deal with Kashindi and Folk Moon.
The businessman told the court that they met Otieno in his office in Nairobi, but they were informed that more money was needed. They were allegedly told that the slight problem required USD 100.
They refused to part with more money.
But during their stay in Nairobi, they were contacted by another gold seller known as Samir Munyinyi and his associate, Anthony Kanga. The two allegedly offered the some 360kgs of gold.
This time, Otieno the lawyer would agree to facilitate the contract.
In the new deal, the investors were required to pay USD 100,000 for export taxes while the lawyer would retain 5kgs of gold as collateral. “We paid 100,000 dollars for taxes and 10,000 dollars as fee for Otieno,” he said.
The investor said payments were done through a bank transfer from his company to the escrow account created between them and Otieno.
Later, one of his workers, Razia Chelimo informed him that she had discovered that Otieno was not registered as an advocate. “We confronted him and he explained to us that he was a lawyer but he was not practicing,” he said.
“We insisted that we wanted to accompany him to the bank but he refused saying it wasn’t necessary and after a few days, Munyinyi came up with another problem. He said he could not get export licence for the consignment and therefore needed another USD 100,000 to solve the problem,” he said.
The witness said they paid the amount to the escrow account in April and after the payment, Munyinyi claimed he could not get a UN certificate that proves that the consignment is from legal origin. And to get the licence they required an additional USD 360,000.
He said they were later introduced to Steph Okute by Peter Mathenge who offered to sell them some 24kgs of gold. Okute claimed to be a clearing agent with Lux Cargo Company, with offices located at JKIA.
He said he could get the missing certificate at a cost of USD 150,000 dollar. “We agreed that we would pay USD 32,000 and the balance would be paid by Munyinyi and Kunga. The said amount was transferred to the account of Otieno on April 19, 2018 and was paid to Okute,” he said.
Munyinyi later informed them that his export licence had expired and in order to renew it he would requires additional USD 66,000. It is then that they protested saying that paid about USD 232,000 without results.
“We later realized that we were being scammed and decided to report the matter at Kilimani police station,” he said.