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Home scandal schemers living large as victims cry foul over slow pace of probe

Simple Homes bosses Argwings Kodhek [R] and Lilian Wangui [L] with unidentified participants after a meeting

The mastermind of the Simple Homes scam had changed his identity in 2013 and proceeded to swindle at least Sh24 million from Mombasa residents before relocating to Nairobi under a different name and starting the company which has now disappeared into thin air with at least Sh500 million from home buyers.

Argwings Kodhek, then known as Yasin Bakr, was the owner of an interest-free investment vehicle targeting Muslims known as Masraf Abu Bakr that managed to convince members from 80 mosques to invest with it before it suddenly closed shop in January 2015.

This led to widespread protests in the coastal town. But barely five months later, Bakr was in Nairobi now as Kodhek and had started Simple Homes. He is yet to be arrested for his crimes in Mombasa and now in Nairobi, raising questions as to who is protecting him.

Police spokesman George Kinoti yesterday said coming to a fast conclusion of the matter is somehow complex since the cases by those who lost their money have been reported to different stations.

Luxurious lifestyle

“Remember the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is not in Nairobi alone. It is scattered all over the country, but that does not mean we have left the victims to cry as if the state is not there to protect them,” he told The Standard on Sunday.

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Kinoti observed that it would be difficult for the police to conclusively comment on the matter since they are still recording statements.

Nevertheless from our investigations, the police were notified on the illegal activities of Simple Homes as early as October last year, but the company continued stealing millions of shillings from Kenyans for six months.

Even right now, Argwings Kodhek, Lilian Wangui and Hellen Wambui, the key players in the firm that swindled at least Sh500 million from unsuspecting home buyers, are free despite Kenyans on social media and this newspaper pointing out where they are.

Pictures of them living lavishly — riding horses while spending time in expensive resorts and of Mr Kodhek posing in front of expensive vehicles — have been doing the rounds on social media as their victims grapple with the loss of house purchase savings. Some took loans to pay for fictitious houses.

The company marketed itself as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to aid Kenyans purchase homes using a ‘pay rent, own home’ model. In order to own a house, prospective buyers were supposed to register using Sh2,500 then save 25 per cent of the value of the property they wanted to buy upfront. They would then be allowed to book for a unit which they would occupy once a particular project is complete.

But three weeks after it suddenly closed shop and this scandal broke out, The Standard on Sunday has established that none of the listed directors on the company or its employees have recorded statements with the police.

No investigator has visited the company’s offices at Centenary House or Mr Agwingi’s House at Daykio Apartments door number A5:2 along Chania Avenue in Hurlingham, Nairobi, which we have established was the nerve centre of the elaborate scheme. A security guard at the apartment told us that he has not seen Kodhek or any of his high end vehicles move in or out for some days now. The man drove a black Mercedes Benz and a Hummer.

Dozens of victims who were swindled have stepped forward to record statements at the DCI. Some of them have now joined hands and will be heading to court on their own as they await for police to move against the masterminds of the scam.

“We will be suing Simple Homes as a limited company for breach of contract but the obtaining by fraudulent means part, which is criminal according to the penal code, we leave to the police,” Haron Gatiji, a spokesman of the victims says. “We are still expecting arrests to be made but the officers working on the case say they are engaged in another almost similar one in Nakuru.”

There are also concerns that the company may have planted its spies among those who were swindled in order to know the direction the investigation is taking. A source at the DCI told us that some of those who have recorded statements presented sales receipts issued as late as two weeks ago, after the company had closed shop.

Online spies

The company has also planted spies in a Whatsapp group formed by the victims and appears to have paid account holders to fight their corner on social media. Nevertheless, those swindled by Simple Homes are probably not the first to seek legal redress over a financial matter involving Kodhek and his gang as he may not be using his real name after all.

The man now known as Kodhek was deported from the United Kingdom, where he had served time in jail for a similar offence under the name Eugene Leslie Khama Agwingi. On arrival in Kenya, he changed his name legally on government records.

His lawyers placed Notice Number 11950 in the Kenya Gazette of July 22, 2013, which read: “Notice is given that by a deed poll dated May 30, 2013 duly executed and registered in the Registry of Documents at Mombasa as Presentation No. 243, in Volume B-13, Folio 1022/5978, File No. 1637, by our client, Yasin Abu Bakr Argwings-Kodhek, formerly known as Eugene Leslie Khama Boaz Agwingi, formally and absolutely renounced and abandoned the use of his former and in lieu thereof assumed and adopted the name Yasin Abu Bakr Argwings-Kodhek.”

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Yasin Bakr then opened an office along the Mombasa-Malindi road and convinced religious leaders that he had come up with an interest-free investment vehicle targeting Muslims known as Masraf Abu Bakr.

It collapsed two years later on January 9, 2015 leading to protests in Mombasa. The media reported at that time that over 80 mosques had joined in the scheme and residents lost at least Sh25 million.

A forensic analysis of documents sent to this reporter by a source claiming to have information on Kodhek — but which seemed to have been diversionary — showed one of them was prepared on a computer belonging to a Yassin Abu Bakr created last Monday, weeks after the suspects had shut their Nairobi offices and vanished. Since then calls to the phone number that sent us the documents have not been going through.

In October last year, some of the company’s shareholders filed complaints at Kilimani Police Station after they discovered that they had been defrauded into buying shares and the company’s directors were not accessible.

Led by retired Magistrate Joyce Manyasi, they recorded statements with the police asking them to arrest the directors of the company, accusing them of conning people by selling them plans of houses that the major shareholders had not approved.

“We told the police that this company was not genuine. They had placed our names and faces as marketing tools since we are people of integrity and were using us to steal,” she told The Standard on Sunday.

Ms Manyasi, who invested Sh300,000 to gain equity in the company, tried to get the directors to expunge her name from the ownership of the company in vain. Frustrated, she eventually sued Simple Homes seeking to have it deregistered. The case

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