February 1st, 2015 – Cash Flow ABI Network Nigeria Fingered In Massive Investment Fraud, How Investors Commit Suicide & Die Of Mystery Diseases
The proprietor of a popular secondary school in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State, Dr Pius (surname withheld), died recently. Family sources attributed the death of the seasoned educationist, who hailed from Ngodo village in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, to frustration arising from a multi million naira investment gone awry.
According to an impeccable family source, “Dr Pius (surname withheld by us) invested about N50 million in a wonder bank which promised tantalising returns on investments but he lost all the money. The promoters of the scheme had made promises to the effect that they will soon begin to pay investors but after waiting endlessly for some years without getting back his investment, he began to think and worry so much that his health took a dip. And the man died.”
Dr Pius was one of the customers of Cash Flow ABI (American Biographical Institute) Network Limited, an organisation which promoted various schemes and offered extra-ordinary returns on investments to its clients but had been unable to discharge its obligation to them for about three years.
Indeed, the development is taking its toll on the thousands of investors in Ebonyi State and elsewhere whose investments appear trapped in the organization. It was learnt that some of the investors had committed suicide while some developed such ailments as stroke and hypertension which incapacitated them and, even claimed the lives of many.
One of the investors or victims, Mr Leonard Ugama, a retiree, recently told the reporter in his residence at Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State: “Yes, many of the investors have died, even somebody we may regard as the highest investor, the owner of a secondary school at Abakaliki died as a result of frustration. He threw in all he had worked for and it got trapped. Some died in Uburu here too.”
Another source said: “Many of the Cash Flow investors are dying and I do not think it is natural death. Many of them who were healthy not long ago have been plagued by all manner of ailments. It has to do with their investments which vanished just like that. You know, we are poor people, so if you lose all you have laboured for in one go, there is nobody to help you. So, many of them are turning into vegetable.”
Rev. Charles Egbo, ICT manager of Cash Flow, Ebonyi State chapter, told the reporter that the network had many packages in online business, building investment, robot investment, car investment, and soft loan facility. He added that the organisation was “having close to N152 million investments from Ebonyi State and more than 1800 clients in the state,” but a source hinted that the ‘investments’ could be much more than that amount. “I believe that they are indebted to Ebonyi people to the tune of more than N500 million. It is difficult to see a family in the community without an investor or victim as the case may be. If you send money to your aged parents in the village, they will go and ‘invest’ it and go hungry. One elderly man was boasting to his son that he will surprise the young man,” the source disclosed.
It was gathered that “the investors were spread across various social strata. Educated, semi-educated and stark illiterates. Professionals, civil servants, businessmen and artisans all went for easy wealth and invested handsomely. In fact, anyone who was not part of the deal was regarded as lacking business acumen.”
How the cookie crumbled
Many of the Cash Flow investors have been weeping in the valley of tears for years. They are dancing on the canvass of despair, sorrow and grief following the disappearance of their life savings and loans obtained with running interests from cooperatives, among other sources.
Madam Rachael Nnennaya Chukwu, a teacher, is an investor with Cash Flow. Indeed, for her, it is like a bad dream. Cash Flow lifted her to an Olympian height, so to say and plunged her into a deep pit of shit. The reporter met her recently and she told a heart touching story. According to her, the investment nearly tore her family apart even as her integrity is now at stake. Her son in-law, brother, sister and church invested through her but their investments went down the drain or so it seems.
Hear her: “On October 1, 2011, I met one headmistress, Mrs Ebere Aja and she was introducing Cash Flow. She asked me if I knew anything about Cash Flow. I wanted to explain it in economic terms but she told me to stop blowing grammar. She said that Cash Flow is an organisation that rewards investors with 70 percent of their investment within 45 days. I asked her to explain it properly and she did. She told me that if I was ready at the time that I could invest and in 45 days I would get an alert of 70 percent of what I deposited in the bank. I told her that I did not have money but that there was some money in my custody and that I will go and withdraw it and she said okay. The money belonged to the Mothers Guild in the church and I am their president.
“On Ocbober 13, 2011, we went to the bank in Abakaliki where the money was and we withdrew it. The amount was N700,000. I came home and met them at the Cash Flow office. I told them that I wanted to invest with them and they gave me their account number in Diamond Bank and asked me to go and deposit it and come with the teller so that they will open a file for me. So, I went and deposited the N700,000 in the account they gave me which they said automatically becomes my account; they said I would be withdrawing my dividends from that account. After depositing the money, I brought the teller and they opened a file for me and gave me a receipt. They also gave me a certificate, showing that I had become their client. I still have the certificate. I did not want to take the money because it wasn’t mine; it was God’s money and I wanted to know if what they were saying was true.
“They didn’t give me alert until March 2012. That March 2012, they went round announcing that there will be verification and documentation. It was even announced on the radio, that the owners of the investment were coming to Ebonyi State and Uburu was the headquarters for the state. After checking their ledger, they discovered that I had not received any alert. After the documentation, they said I had N1.7million and asked me if I wanted the money. I told them that I wanted N1.6million and immediately they issued me a UBA cheque for N1.6million. They told me that they had five more days to stay at Uburu and that they were not fraudsters. They said that if I encountered any problem at the bank I should call them with the number they gave me. I went to the bank at Abakaliki and cashed N1.6million.I left N100,000 in the account. I said it was God’s money, so I used the money to buy Toyota Bus for the church. I bought the bus for N1.2 million but we used the balance to bring back the bus from Togo, registration and seats.”
Madam Chukwu became a super star in the community. She was the cynosure of all eyes wherever she went and everyone wanted to be like her. She continued: “With the way I spent the money, the news spread like a wild fire. Wherever I went, people pointed at me, saying this is Madam Chukwu who bought a bus for the church. Individuals and groups were coming, asking me how it happened and I explained everything to them. On account of that, people were rushing to invest with Cash Flow. In August 2012, they brought another promo, saying it attracted 50 percent interest on investment because as at that March 2012, they had reduced the interest to 20 percent. But I got 50 percent for November and December 2011 and 20 percent for January, February and March 2012. That was how they calculated my money.
“When the CEO, Engineer Philemon Gora, came with the 50 per cent promo in August 2012, he also reduced the days of maturity to 30 days from 45 days. The news spread to nooks and crannies of Ebonyi State and people rushed to deposit money. The owner of Cash Flow came himself to an old hotel in Uburu, Chimanelo Hotel and announced that his intention was to enrich people. There was a sea of human heads there. He said that he was not a politician and there was no politician who could compete with him in terms of money. He usually quoted Malachi 3:10, imploring everyone to pay tithe on whatever they were paid. He said no investor in Cash Flow will ever be broke. So, so many people invested within the period.”
Madam Chukwu added: “Many people borrowed money with running interests to invest. I told my in-law who was working with the bank and many of my relatives. I told them I had seen the pathway to making money. I also invested another N1.55 million plus the N100,000 I already had with them. So, I had a total investment of NI.65 million. They said that in 30 days “you will get 50per cent dividend on your investment and if you want to withdraw your investment you can do so after 30 days.” Since that August, till December 2012, people were filling forms to withdraw but nothing was given to them. Then people started crying because many of them had borrowed the money they invested with the intention of paying back the loans.
“Gora later announced that everyone should go and open an account in a micro finance bank on Ogoja Road, Abakaliki. He categorized their clients according to the value of investment. He said that those who invested N5million and above would be getting a certain amount of money weekly until everything is paid if they so desired. And those who had between N1 million and N5 million would be receiving a certain amount of money through the micro finance bank. We rushed and opened accounts in the micro finance bank but nothing has been paid ever since. Those I introduced to the scheme include my brother, sister, son in-law and the church.”
Madam Chukwu has been under severe pressure since the investments got stuck. She had been called names and accused of cheating. It almost destroyed her family. “I have been on fire since that time, as if I embezzled the money. The reason they gave me money was that they saw what I did with money from the scheme. But it appeared to them that I did not invested the money or that I refused to return the money to them. This thing caused a lot of problems in my family; it almost separated my son in-law and I because he brought N1 million. He appreciated what I did when I bought the vehicle for the church because I explained everything to him but when the money got trapped, everything changed. They trusted me but with what happened, trouble arose.
“I am pleading for the man (Gora) to bring back my money. It is one of my prayer points. If it were my money, I would have endured it but it made me a liar. If I get the money, I will prove to them that I did not dupe them,” she said in an emotion soaked voice. It was learnt that “a few other investors who embraced the scheme early made bountiful harvest and began to spread the ‘good’ news in the community and beyond. To convince anyone who had an iota of doubt, they flaunted the gains they had made within few months of investing in the scheme and even boasted about what they would do with money in the near future.
“As the early beneficiaries spread the good news as it were, many other investors came aboard. Many people who maintained accounts in regular banks withdrew all they had in them and invested same in the scheme. Even those people who didn’t have money of their own did not want to be left out. Hence they went to borrow from any available sources, including money lenders, cooperative societies and traders unions, with running interests. The situation was such that the scheme was announced in the church and worshippers were encouraged to take up the opportunity.”
Like father, like sons
Mr Leonard Ugama, a pensioner, also narrated to the reporter how he invested in Cash Flow. Ironically, he didn’t invest alone; two of his sons were also investors in the ill-fated transaction. He said: “In November 2011, an old man told me that there was an announcement in their church that there was somebody who wanted to make people rich. He said that the person was a Christian, that he was interested in helping people. He said that his pastor’s wife invested with the man and she had been getting some interest. They referred me to the Cash Flow office in Uburu. I went there and they showed me the returns that people had been getting. So, I decided to invest.
“My first investment was on November 4, 2011; I invested N250,000 that time. When it started yielding, I opened another one with a little less than N250,000. I continued until I reached the fourth and fifth entries. They were paying us as you demanded; they were giving us 20per cent for 45 days. So, after sometime they said that they were going to do promo and that the promo will attract 50per cent interest. Many people like me sourced money and invested in the promo which they called Local Robot. From the time of the Local Robot, we started having problems. I was expecting that when I get money from the ones I had invested earlier, I would put it in the promo but it didn’t work that way because what I was expecting was never paid to me. Robot, we started having problems.
I “Later on, we started hearing the rumour that the people were having problems and we were waiting. One day, the owner of Cash Flow came by himself to address us. He told us that people were jealous of the people investing with him. He said that very soon, he will be free and start paying us, which he never did. We have decided to wait until whenever it is God’s wish that we shall get our investment back.
“I invested N1.3million in the promo. Before the promo, I had N646, 800 in the scheme. There was a time he asked us to pay N50,000 to facilitate the release of our funds and some of us did. In my immediate family, we were three that invested – my two sons and me. One of my sons invested N700,000 in the promo and had a balance of N20,000 from other entries he made. The other one invested N200,000 plus N20,000 from other entries he made. They do not answer phone calls but when you send them a text, anybody there can reply. It was about a year ago that we had any form of communication. He has made us suffer beyond our expectation. My appeal, therefore, is that he should do something to help by giving us at least what we invested, even if the dividends are not forthcoming. Many of the investors have died, even somebody we may regard as the highest investor, the owner of a secondary school at Abakaliki died. Some died in Uburu here.”
In an earlier report, some of the investors had lamented their inability to access their investments. Mrs. Florence Chukwu, a retiree, had disclosed that she invested N120,000 without getting anything in return. Mrs. Irene Ada Akpo, a school principal, said that she invested millions of naira in the scheme. She said: “I joined in December 2011 with the sum of N500,000. I was getting my interest up till June 2012 before the CEO introduced what he called ‘promo’ which he said that if someone puts a certain sum, the interest would be 50 percent. So, some of us even borrowed money to join. I personally at that period put in N1. 6million. Then, we waited and the next month when we were supposed to have gotten our interest, nothing was forthcoming. We later learnt that the EFCC were interrogating him somehow. We continued to get information that they will soon be over it and that about eight or nine of his accounts were closed, that we should be patient. Then, he came to Uburu and had a seminar at Chimnelo Hotel. Many of us attended. In fact, the hall was filled to the brim.
He narrated his ordeal in the EFCC, how they asked him to open a micro-finance bank and that he struggled to open it. He gave us some papers he called modalities for payment. He told us that the EFCC said that he should pay us our capital but that he was willing to add the interest there. And that was the reason he refused to pay his clients their capital only. Most of us believed him. They gave everybody the paper tagged modalities for payment; some of us borrowed money again to pay into one account called Gadonkay GLC or something like that. I personally borrowed N50,000 and paid it in so that my money will come out but up till this moment, I have not seen anything”.
Mrs Precious Odi said that she invested N650,000, adding: “To worsen my case, I collected the money I deposited with Cash Flow from someone and I’m paying interest on it up till now. So, each time I collected my salary, I use it to service my debt, leaving me with nothing.”
Ugo Okolie, a teacher at Community High School, Uburu invested N70,000 while Mrs.Orienta, also a teacher invested over N60, 000. Another teacher, Victor Nnenna Ene, also a teacher, lost more than N70,000. Mrs Lucy Umahi, council staff, also invested N50,000.
Mr Onu Agodichi Emmanuel committed N220,000 and Hon. Thomas U. Chukwu, invested over N1million. According to Chukwu, “the CEO came sometime ago and addressed us. He told us that those with deposit worth up to N1million will be rewarded with accumulated interests of over N1million. He told me to pay N50,000 into his account with Diamond Bank. He called it counter fund, saying it will facilitate repayment of my deposit. He also told me to go to a micro finance bank in Abakaliki to open an account with N1,000. He said that once we comply with these, they would commence payment to all depositors within a space of one week.”
About three years later, no investor had been paid.
Why payments stopped
Rev Egbo had told the reporter that the firm had “problems with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which made our accounts to be closed. Up to eight of our accounts were closed; we had no access to our accounts, that was why we couldn’t pay again. But the board of directors and CEO are processing the matter with SEC. They have finalized their investigations with him. They went to the banks with him and inspected the accounts and saw that the whole money was still intact. That what he was saying were not mere fabrications or falsehood. The CEO, Engineer Philemon Gora, a native of Kaduna State, has been a Christian and truthful somebody. Since we came to work with him, we’ve not seen him misbehaving or maltreating or intimidating any client. And he is somebody who doesn’t want to hear that a staff harassed a customer.”
It was learnt that the firm also had issues with the CBN, EFCC and ICPC. The reporter wanted to confirm the situation with the Kaduna office but the call rang out without response. On January 19, 2015, an sms was sent to the phone number on the certificate of investment issued to customer but there was no reply.
The office of Cash Flow at Ekeaja, Uburu, is in a decrepit state. In fact, one wonders how anyone could deposit large sums of money with an outfit operating in such a deplorable environment. When the reporter visited the office recently, it was deserted.
[Reported By By HENRY UMAHI, Sunday Sun]