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Relationships now a breeding ground for extortion and greed

FEATURES

Francis Macharia and Caroline Wangui were married with one child and stayed in a rental house in Nairobi's Kayole estate

But on the morning of February 21 this year, Ndung'u woke up to find his 22-year-old wife gone. She had left behind their child and a housekeeper.

He said he called her several times, but she failed to pick his calls.

"When I checked my M-Pesa account, I found some Sh240,000 had been transferred to my wife's phone number," Ndung'u told police officers later.

The police, who are investigating the incident, said that Ndung'u was not feeling well, and first decided to go to the hospital before reporting the incident at Kayole police station after the medical report established that he had been drugged.

The police, who managed to trace the stolen funds, said that Sh240,000 had been transferred from Ndungu's account to his wife's and her aunt, identified as Esther Wambui.

"They were all tracked and arrested by police after investigations were concluded," police privy to the investigations told The Nairobian.

That is how a whirlwind romance between the young, enviable couple came to a sudden halt.

Despite the couple's glimmering looks, a lot more was going on behind closed doors. So much so that Wangui saw it fit to risk drugging her husband - and father of her child - for a paltry sum of money.

Issues of distrust, theft and hoarding of secrets among couples are rife. Most of these issues are driven by greed for money and sadly, many of them end up in bitter separations and broken families.

The Kenya Police Crime Statistics released in 2018 revealed that one in 10 murders is committed by a woman.

Women are also more likely to kill people close to them and less likely to use a lot of force or plan in advance, the report also showed.

Getting cash

Besides outright theft, women in relationships use other means to get cash - from extortion and drugging to 'trapping' men with pregnancies and 'kukula fare' - the list is endless.

Gone are the days when women would poke holes in condoms so as to trap the winning sperm. Some would concoct lies about pregnancy and demand huge sums from the man to procure a necessary abortion.

Nowadays, there are more tricks in the bag. Relationships have turned into a mining field where women, and men too, devise ways to scam their lovers.

There have been reports of people killing their lovers for money and property, with some as recent as last year.

A number of those who have been arrested for killing their spouses indicate in reports that they are interested in inheriting what has been left behind. They also make up a good percentage of the 58,887 people behind bars in Kenya.

For 37-year-old Ann*, murder was not an option, so she devised other means to get a slice of her husband's cake.

Ann, who plays second wife to a 67-year-old married man, says as soon as she landed a job in the civil service, her husband became reluctant to provide for her.

As a result, the mother of two was forced to pay for food, electricity bills, hers and her children's personal needs, which left her income strained.

To make up for the deficit, Ann says she enrolled for a master's degree course at a local university, "But I never actually went to school. And since I was the secret family, I knew he would not go to the university to pay directly to avoid drama from his wife."

Ann says her husband of 10 years has been paying her tuition fees, fuel, school trips, and projects for the last three years. She notes that once she is done with her 'studies', she will have to devise other means to keep the cash flowing.

Extortion experts

Kennedy Mwaniki Ng'ang'a, a Gikomba businessman, said that women have devised many ways of extorting men, and in most cases, they do their assignments well by investigating and understanding the man they want to extort.

"One day, I met a beautiful lady. The ones you find and you are like, "I am marrying this one," Kennedy, popularly known as Ng'ash, said, "Unfortunately, after a week, she sent me and my friend a text requesting for wine worth two thousand shillings, claiming that she was bored at home."

Ng'ash said that the woman did not know they were friends or knew each other.

"It gave me a feeling that this message has been sent to many people, and I am sure there is a possibility that some sent the money. For me, I don't reply to such texts from lazy people," Ng'ash said.

Sheila, a political strategist with one of the leading political parties, said that extortionists craft messages for more than ten people so that a large number can respond by sending cash.

Sheila added that a good number of women and men also fake an emergency to extort money. The emergency baptized in social circles as "I need Sh 2,000 urgently,' rarely explains the reasons why the extortionists want the money.

"In most cases, they study what you can afford and sit down with friends to craft the lie, which is sent to many people," she said, adding, "And you can't tell me that if the message is sent to 10 or more people, all of them will not fail to receive it."

James Njenga, also a businessman, says that the latest lie is that "my items are stuck at the airport," which Sheila believes is outdated.

They add that another lie is when a lady or man asks for help to do something, claiming that she has less money.

"She can tell you she has this amount of money and wants to buy a house, buy land, pay for gas, buy fuel, or do something and wants a top-up," Sheila said.

Sheila added that men are not leaving women behind by extorting them.

"I recall the person I was dating for only four months telling me that his insurance had expired but that he was still in the village. I almost sent it, but my sister asked me if it was a lie, and when we used a cop to check the location, we found him in the CBD," she said.

She went on to say that most women use memes to extort money.

"When you see her posting that if your lady is looking good and you are not providing, know that another man is doing the same, and know that she is hitting the men in her inbox or she is dating," she said.

She added that women who post about wababa either have them or they are using the posts to intimidate their boyfriends for money.

"Some even post emojis, especially the one in tears asking for money," she said.

She added that spouses intimidate, steal, rob, kill, and directly extort money from their spouses, leaving their partners poor, dead, or only surviving by God's grace because they truly trusted these people.

Sheila remembered well that the same man had lied to him and said he was chasing another deal and did not have money for paying licenses, which she gave him but was never refunded.

She went on to say that some women were going so far as to stage funerals to extort money.

"You see a crying emoji, and when a man asks what is happening, they tell him that a close relative has died," she said, adding, "They form a WhatsApp group with a picture of the dead."

She said the statuses are created in a way that only a few people can view, and the fundraising venue is both the village and a place he can't visit.

They added that both men and women lie that they left cash at home or that their cars have run out of fuel to extort their loved ones.

Small claims court

Speaking to The Nairobian a few weeks ago, an Eldoret Small Claims Court adjudicator, Tabitha Wanjiku Mbugua, said she has been receiving complaints from men who want help after their lovers 'ate' their fare.

Kukula fare, as it is popularly known, is when a woman spends money sent to her by a man, in hopes that she will use the money as transportation to his place for a good time.

However, according to Ms Mbugua, it is difficult for the small claims court to force a woman to return the cash if things go against expectations.

The Small Claims Court was established by the Small Claims Act of 2016 and has monetary jurisdiction over matters not exceeding Sh1 million.

"I sympathise with men who lose money to women eating their fare but fail to honour the invites. Some of these men have approached my court for help, but, unfortunately, my court cannot compel such women to pay back the fare," said the magistrate.

"The law on the jurisdiction of small claims courts does not allow me to adjudicate on that," she added.

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