Wealthsmith's Gerald Mwanza [Photo: Courtesy]

John Mui invested over Sh1 million in a ‘promising money-oozing’ farming scheme.

This, he says, was a risky but worthwhile investment - at least going by the positive reviews he received coupled with an elaborate contract agreement. However, his desire to grow his purse has remained a pipe-dream.

Mui claims he has been left badly out of pocket after he ploughed his money into a greenhouse farming project dubbed Kilimo Poa - managed by Wealthsmith Limited.

In the agreement signed between Mui and Wealthsmith Limited, copies of which are in the possession of The Nairobian, the company was to carry out farming activities on the farm using greenhouses, with returns paid to Mui after an agreed period of time.

As part of its obligation, which is captured in the agreement, Wealthsmith Limited was to; “Pay the owner a return of Shillings eight hundred thousand (Sh800, 000) (The Returns) in two installments for every twelve (12) months of successful farming... the first instalment payment of the returns shall be six (6) months from the date of planting crop in the greenhouse. Thereafter, all consecutive payments shall be made every six (6) months consecutively.”

 Sh51,000 processing fee

However, it’s been almost 14 months, and Mui, who invested in the Wealthsmith’s Kilimo Poa project in September 2017, having met all the requirements as stipulated in the contract (including paying Sh51,000 processing fee), is yet to receive any returns or profit as was indicated in the contract.

“I had no idea this was going to happen. I am frustrated as my efforts towards financial freedom have hit a snag,” an agitated Mui told The Nairobian, adding: “It’s been an extraordinary tale of deception, through and through.”

The Nairobian has established that the company’s (Wealthsmith Limited) other project tucked hundreds of kilometres from Nairobi has been dogged by similar complaints after it allegedly failed to pay (returns) to clients who had invested in their project dubbed Kilimo Poa in Nanyuki, Laikipia county.

A green house [Photo: Courtesy]

Those who invested in the project in February 2017 claim they are yet to receive a dime even after they invested millions into it.

Like the company’s other deals, the Nanyuki project was widely advertised on some of the local TV and radio stations, boosting the public’s confidence in them.

Indeed Mui’s case is not isolated. At Central Police Station in Nairobi, a similar complaint has been launched against Wealthsmith Limited under OB 86/14/8/18 by another disgruntled client.

The same events have been replicated in a Nanyuki court, in case number (ELC no.162 of 2018), where one John Nzau has sued Wealthsmith Limited for alleged breach of contract.

And just like Mui and Nzau, Rose Mwangi (not her real name) is yet to receive her returns 18 months after she invested Sh1 million in February 2017. This money, she claims, was a loan she took to enhance her financial strength through conscious investments. She is still waiting even as she continues to repay the loan through hard toil.

In her contract document seen by The Nairobian, Mwangi had entered into a three-year agreement with Wealthsmith Limited. As a client, she was to pay for the greenhouse, while the company managed the whole project; sell the produce and pay her back the returns.

The first payment was to hit her account six months later, the cheque never came.

After a laborious 18 months wait, Mwangi received an addendum of sorts from Wealthsmith, which purportedly reviewed the original contract, issuing updates on email on how the project would run going forward. Meanwhile, she had not been paid a dime, neither was her money refunded as is stipulated in the original contract should one party fail to keep their end of the bargain.

“I invested money in this project to get returns, but up to now, the only returns I have received are email updates arbitrarily extending dates,” she told The Nairobian.

Another investor took the company to court [Photo: Courtesy]

She has accused the company’s directors of not coming clean in the whole arrangement.

“It is a smooth operation that ordinary people cannot see. These directors and the CEO are all over the place in various media platforms marketing the projects, yet everything seems to be a hoax,” she said referring to media coverage given to the projects.

“I am currently servicing the loan I took to invest in the project, yet the company’s directors are taking me in cycles,” said the angry Mwangi.

An enraged Mwangi claims she sought a lawyer to help her opt out, this was an option in the contract, so she could get her money back.

“We met one of the directors in the company of my lawyer. I told him I wanted out,” she said adding: “I have since been taken in cycles I almost lost my head.”

Elsie Micheni, another client, also invested in the Kilimo Poa project after their pompous advertisement on a popular morning Radio show.

“They advertised with some FM stations. I went for it because everything looked legit,” said Micheni who has lost over Sh600,000.

The returns were enticing [Photo: Courtesy]

Sh200,000 after six months

She claims she paid Sh300,000 for the plot and another Sh320,00 for the greenhouse — and signed a three-year contract.

Like all the others, Micheni was to get returns after every six months.

For the first year, she would get a return of Sh400,000 in two instalments. Sh200,000 after six months and a similar amount after the next six months.

Micheni said she bought her piece of land with a greenhouse already constructed on it and crops planted. Indeed the officials assured her that it would only take a few months before she began reaping benefits from the project.

“Both the company’s Relationship Manager Alfred Ngugi and one of the directors, Gerald Mwanza, assured me that all was well and that the project was viable,” she said.

After she paid Sh620, 000, the company through Ngugi, organised a visit to Nanyuki where they saw for themselves the land and the greenhouse projects.

 Trouble started

“They treated us like guests, big hotels and nice vans. We went and confirmed for ourselves that indeed we had put money into a viable project,” she said.

Trouble started after the first six months lapsed, Micheni didn’t get the first Sh200, 000 as per the contract, prompting her to follow up the payment.

“It was during this time that Mwanza informed me that the contract had been reviewed and that the payment date had changed from six months to 11 months,” she told The Nairobian.

When contacted, Mwanza confirmed to The Nairobian that indeed the company altered the agreements and that the communication was passed to the clients through their email addresses.

“We sent an addendum with the reviews and the clients were fully informed of the changes,” Mwanza told The Nairobian.

Trouble started after the first six months lapsed [Photo: Courtesy]

About the challenges that have bedevilled the project since its inception, Mwanza said the project ran into challenges but maintained that the challenges are being addressed, a position the clients opposed.

As Micheni continues to scratch her head, another client, Veronica Mwalo, claims the whole thing is giving her nightmares.

Mwalo is fearing for the worst after she put over Sh800,000 family money in the Nanyuki project early last year hoping that by December, she would have gotten the returns.

“It is one of the most torturous and anxious periods in my life because I used the family money without my husband’s knowledge. The moment he finds out, I will be dead,” she told The Nairobian.

Despite putting money in the project since February 2017, not even a single client has come out to say he or she got the returns as was indicated in the contract.

Some of the officials who acted in the initial stages as contact persons and directors, have already distanced themselves from the project, saying the project is not directly run by the company while others claim they left the company.

“The Kilimo Poa Project in Nanyuki is run by Barletta Company, you should look for them and get their take regarding the challenges,” one Wealthsmith director told The Nairobian.

Benuel Obetto, who acted as a director when dealing with the clients told The Nairobian that he was a junior employee and was not in a position to handle contract matters.

“You can come and talk to the directors in our office at Electricity House. I am a junior employee like you,” he said adding that the project was managed by Chris Kimani (the Agribusiness manager) who was in a position to speak about the complaints.

Mwanza told The Nairobian that the review of the contract was informed by unforeseeable technical and logistical challenges in the initial stages, but insisted the company had put in place mechanisms to deal with the challenges. He said the company has rolled out an elaborate plan to pay all the clients their dues.

“We are not hiding from anyone, we ran into some challenges, but we are addressing them with the clients and soon things will look up,” he said.

The affected clients have however dismissed Mwanza’s position as a lie meant to hoodwink the media.

"We run into some challenges," he said [Photo: Courtesy]

 Demanded apology

“Not even a single client has been paid since early last year. It is a shame and a plan to rob us our hard-earned money,” one of the clients told The Nairobian.

On September 15, 2018, at 12:26 pm, Mucheni received an email from Barletta Holdings. The subject of the email was ‘Apology on Insult over Phone conversation’. The email, seen by The Nairobian, is copied to Justin Kikuvi Muendo and General Manager General Manager Mwanza.

“I have requested the CEO of Wealthsmith to facilitate a record of all the communications you have had with them so far since the time you invested... to deal with going forward including your query on payments. However, I am afraid that engagement may be limited by the absence of an apology of the said insult. If in the near future we are unable to have a respectable and cordial working relationship with my company

Barletta, then you will be most welcome to terminate the agribusiness contract and do the farming yourself. Kindly revert as soon as possible with the written apology so that I can proceed to address the other matters arising.”

Adding: “We are ready to pay you, but you must first withdraw your ‘acheni ujinga comment’ before that can be done.”

The victims have accused the officials of blackmail and intimidation after breaching the contract.

“They now ask for apologies on emails and Whatsapp yet we invested money in the project, not all these things they are asking for. They are annoying, to say the least,” said Micheni.

On Micheni’s case, lawyer Peter Mbithi (acting for Wealthsmith), while speaking on the matter, said Mucheni, for reasons known to herself, had decided to use obscenities whenever he visits the offices or calls to inquire about the project and is completely uncontrollable.

“Please ask her to be civil and go and pick her cheque, alternatively, ask her to provide his account details so that his payments maybe forwarded there whenever ready.”

But when The Nairobian sought to know why payments were taking an eternity, lawyer Mbithi said; “It would help out if you explain to them that they can only be paid from the successful farming, marketing and selling of their produce, not from any other source.”

“The threats to have you publish their allegations, the allegations they put on Facebook, WhatsApp etc, for the various groups existing and created, only help in slowing down farming.”

“Further seek their eventual objective, is it to fail, progress, support or derail their own farming?” Mbithi posed.

 A different direction

On October 8, in a sudden turn of events, Wealthsmith Limited sent communications to investors informing them the Kilimo Poa project had been handed over to Barletta Holdings.

The email reads in part: “Barletta has been managing the project from the onset last year, and is conversant with the dynamics of managing the project, in order to ensure you receive your returns going forward.”

Meanwhile, many who invested in the project are yet to be paid their returns.

Despite all these complaints, the company is already advertising lucrative land deals in Kitengela, Kajiado and Mombasa.

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