Pyramid schemes in Kenya: Jane Musimbi, 62, was all set for a comfortable retirement after decades working for one of the leading banks in Kenya. But the financial scams that rocked the country between 2006 and 2007 dealt her a double tragedy, inflicting lifetime scars on her.
Musimbi not only lost over Sh. 31 million to the pyramid schemes; she also lost a brother, Elphas Kimiywi, who was thrown off the eighth floor of a city high-rise building by enraged investors who were demanding their money back from the organisation he worked for.
The two had for long worked together at the Barclays Bank of Kenya as part of the management team. But it is his friendship with the late George Donde, the founder of DECI, that cost him his life and his sisters fortunes.
In 2006, I invested my retirement benefits in pyramid schemes, I was convinced there was no risk at all. Elphas joined DECI in March 2007 as the financial controller and from his top position; he never suspected there was any ulterior motive. He advised me to put more money there and I ended up with Sh. 31 million in DECI, explains Musimbi.
She also put hundreds of thousands of shillings in Pesanet Ltd, Global Entrepreneurship, Acid and Mont Blanq Afrique. Two months later, Kimiywi would die in tragic circumstances, with his death paving way for the collapse of over 270 pyramid schemes in which Kenyans had invested billions of shillings. I am told he was confronted by investors who could not access their money.
Apparently, money had been transferred from the schemes accounts and there was no way he could have helped. He ended up being tossed out of the eighth floor of Union Towers building in Nairobi and died on the spot, states the mother of four. It was a very painful moment. The death was a real shocker. I lost a brother I had been so close to.
Musimbi says she felt something was wrong with the pyramid schemes after the death and her fears were soon confirmed. ”I tried to secure my money from DECI immediately after but their offices were closed. It was a similar case in the other schemes. They had all closed down” she notes.
Her daily trips to Central Police Station in Nairobi were of no help either as she says the police kept telling her that DECI had conned everyone. Deci went under with an estimated Sh. 2 billion of more than 94,000 investors.
The former banker says that the loss of her investments dealt her family a major blow. My children were in college and I was taking care of a sick mother. At one point, one of my sons had to seek manual jobs to keep us going, she recalls.
This story on Pyramid Schemes in Kenya was first published in the Standard.