A Caribbean financial markets regulator has denied having authorised a Limuru-based firm to trade in foreign exchange, deepening the mystery surrounding the company which is also under investigation by Kenya’s anti banking fraud police.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean island where VIP Portal Inc. claims to be registered, has said that it has not authorised the firm to do foreign exchange trading.
VIP Portal’s bank accounts at Family Bank were frozen last month after police obtained a court order that was also addressed to Barclays Kenya. The police documents indicated that at one point VIP Portal’s accounts held a total of Sh1.08 billion.
“Forex trading/brokerage licences are not issued in St Vincent and the Grenadines to any entity incorporated or registered here,” said Geshell Peters, legal officer at FSA in a statement to the Business Daily.
VIP Portal says on its website - http://www.viportal.co.ke - that it is licensed and regulated by the FSA of St Vincent & Grenadines, and has also posted its registration certificates online.
“We’re licensed and regulated by Financial Services Authority – St. Vincent & Grenadines and our LICENSE NO: 21787/ IBC/ 2013,” VIP Portal says on its web portal.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a multi-island country situated in the eastern Caribbean and neighbours the island nations of Barbados and St. Lucia. The country is made up of 32 islands and has a population of about 111,380, with a fifth of the population living in the capital Kingstown.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK’s) anti-fraud detectives in June raided VIP Portal’s headquarters in Limuru and arrested chief executive Alfred Wangai alongside two other directors; Nkatha Kirimi and Colin Mundia. The trio were arraigned at a Kiambu court charged with fraud and collecting deposits from the public without a licence from the banking regulator.
VIP Portal has now gone to court seeking orders to have its accounts re-opened. The operations of VIP Portal come barely a decade after the mega pyramid schemes of 2004-2005 where more than 150,000 investors lost more than Sh8 billion.
A task force led by Francis Nyenze established that a total of 270 pyramid schemes swindled Kenyans of their hard-earned cash with promised of high dividends.
Some of the Ponzi schemes named in the Nyenze report include Developing Entrepreneur and Community Initiative (DECI) which went down with Sh2.4 billion, Clip Investment collapsed with Sh1.9 billion and Circuit burst with Sh340 million. VIP Portal, was founded by Mr Wangai in 2013 and has been collecting money from the public for investment in forex trading with promises of super-returns to investors.
The company had signed more than 5,000 investors and offered dividends of between 60 and 80 per cent on the amount invested. It had branches in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, Kisii, Karatina and Nakuru.
VIP Portal offered investors an option dubbed VIP Premium with a minimum investment of Sh25,000, with a promise of 240 per cent or more than double returns - paid in three tranches over a period of four months.
For example, if an investor put in Sh100,000, he/she would get back Sh80,000 three times, which is a total of 240,000 by the end of the contract.