BUSTED: Couple who scammed 27 Nigerian investors of N19bn owns choice properties in Dubai

A couple who ran a Ponzi scheme in Nigeria and defrauded 27 investors of their hard-earned N18.88 billion have been discovered to own choice properties in Marina Vista Tower 2 and Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Economy Post has found.

Though the value of the two properties was not stated, real estate experts suggest they are worth over $1 million (over N1.4 billion). The dates of purchase were also not stated.

Bamise Ajetunmobi and his wife, Elizabeth, were ordered by the Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Toyin Oyekan-Abdullahi on July 15, 2022, to pay N18.88 billion to 27 aggrieved investors who filed a fraud suit against them and their company, Imagine Global Solution Limited.

Palm Jumeirah in Dubai Source: iStock and Nikada

Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi gave “an order of the court mandating, compelling and directing the defendants to forthwith pay the first to 17th claimants, represented by Barrister Adedoyin-Adeniyi of AAA Chambers, jointly and severally pay the total sum of N15.5 billion, at 10 percent interest per annum being the outstanding investment sums accruing to the first to 17th claimants, who are investors; together with all other listed investors, in the second defendant’s company, upon the maturity of the respective investments and the accrued return on investments thereon.”

READ ALSO: Investors make exit plans as kidnappers turn Nigeria into dangerous territory

Marina Vista Tower 2, Dubai Source: PropSearch

She further gave an order “mandating, compelling and directing the defendants to forthwith pay the 18th to 27th Claimants, represented by Banwo and Ighodalo and Co., jointly and severally pay the total sum of N3.38 billion, at 10 per cent interest per annum being the outstanding investment sums accruing to the 18th to 27th claimants who are investors; together with all other listed investors, in the second defendant’s company, upon the maturity of the respective investments and the accrued return on investments thereon.”

This investigation came to light as part of a project named “Dubai Unlocked,” which is a six-month investigation into the UAE’s booming and secretive property market led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) together with more than 70 media partners.

Economy Post is the only Nigerian media organisation that participated in the project, led by its Managing Editor and multiple award-winning investigative journalist and editor, Odinaka Anudu.

The investigation shows how powerful individuals, politically exposed persons and criminals acquired real estate in some of the most expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in the Middle East.

READ ALSO: Nigeria loses $6 billion investment to Angola, another $1.3bn to São Tomé and Príncipe

The investigation is based on newly leaked property records dated from January 2022, obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a U.S. nonprofit organisation, and shared with E24, a Norwegian news outlet, and other news media.

How it started

The couple had claimed to be facilitating micro lending services to small and medium businesses, mobilising investors to put their funds into the business on the promise of a return on investment (ROI) of 10 percent per annum.

The business was premised on four key metrics of using his microlending subsidiary, TFS Finance, to get fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) traders, conduct due diligence and disburse loans of over N10,000 to N100,000 firms over a 30- to 40-day cycle.

Nairametrics reported that the company’s first set of clients were his former coworkers who later publicised the success of the scheme. 

Bank managers soon joined, committing their life’s savings into the scheme. Many of the bank managers and bank workers convinced people they were managing their accounts to invest in the scheme. 

Bamise, who started the business while working in a bank, soon resigned to face the business full-time. With the rapid growth of the business, Bamise and his wife founded Imagine Global Solutions Limited in 2017 to expand their activities.

The customer base grew from 30 to nearly 100,000 in about five years. The loan portfolio also grew from about N5 million to about N11 billion within this period. 

However, the business collapsed in August 2021 when the couple could not meet investors’ returns. Bamise and his group had to reduce the ROI to 7 percent in October 2021 in order to be able to meet the demands of investors. However, the chickens had come home to roost. They eventually fled the country to escape the prying eyes of the worried investors and the law enforcement agencies.

Investors created a WhatsApp group and a forum on Nairaland with a view to recovering their money.

READ ALSO: Flashback: How Union Bank ex-director and gang sold fake airport to Brazilian for $242m

On October 28, the Lagos State High Court restrained the couple and their company from accessing funds in 21 commercial banks in Nigeria. 

Arrest and prosecution

On January 31, 2023, the Lagos High Court ordered the police to produce the couple to answer the charges preferred against them. In March 2023, the police arrested the couple in Ivory Coast while trying to board a flight to the United Kingdom.

Bamise was detained by the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID), Alagbon, Lagos.

The FCIID subsequently obtained a remand warrant against the defendant. The case was, however, taken over by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)’s office, which arraigned the defendant before the court on August 12, 2023. His wife is believed to still be at large.

On March 13, 2024, the Ajetunmobis told the Lagos Federal High Court that they were interested in an out-of-court settlement.

The Dubai connection

In a twist, however, our investigation has found that Bamise Samson Ajutenmobi owns at least two properties in Dubai. One of the properties is located at Marina Vista Tower 2 while the other is situated at Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

The area owned by Samson Bamise Ajetunmobi at Marina Vista Tower 2 is 100.56 square feet while that of the Palm Jumeirah is 66.45 square feet.

Incidentally, the area owned by Samson Bamise Ajetunmobi at Palm Jumeira is classified as “Seven Hotel and Apartments.” This implies that it is a hotel, a real estate agent in Dubai told Economy Post.

Samson Bamise Ajetunmobi is yet to be found guilty, though he a judgment debtor, having been ordered by the Lagos court to pay back investors from whom he collected money from fraudulently.

Economy Post made efforts to contact Bamise Samson Ajetunmobi to get his reactions but was unable to get him.

How properties are acquired in Dubai

In Dubai and, in fact, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), flats, villas, apartments, rooms and offices are sold to intending buyers. Unlike in Nigeria where an entire building is purchased, the UAE sells parts of a building to potential buyers in dollars.

A lot of properties in Dubai are owned by Nigerians, including politicians, criminals and businesspeople. The role of the country in facilitating dirty real estate deals has severally been questioned, but the country has defended itself.

However, many see the UAE as not helping to curb real estate corruption.

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