One of the first victims was the owner of the new fancy office complex in Kimihurura. The next was a furniture company that supplied office equipment.
The forex dealers then fell victim to the conmen who are now on the run.
The forex dealers incurred the greatest loss.
About two weeks ago, a man by the name of Nasser El Haj, believed to represent Delta Petroleum Services Rwanda, rented the entire sixth floor of Career Centre complex in Kimihurura. The multi – storeyed building, located adjacent to Kigali Heights, had just opened to clients.
The owner was either trusting enough to rent out space with no pay or was desperately looking for clients and the duty to carry out minimal due diligence was ignored.
The conman got the floor space, installed a beautiful red wall-to-wall carpet and he needed furniture.
Fine Furniture Company was contacted and they too fell for the scam. They supplied the desks, chairs and cabinets among other requests for office materials.
For the conmen’s plot to succeed, they needed to make the office look legitimate and going by the quality of furniture they ordered, they left nothing to spare.
According to the furniture company, their order was worth Rwf165 million (USD 190,000).
Then the mega plan was to rob the forex dealers.
On the fateful day, one of the conmen approached the forex dealers in town looking for US dollars.
He asked them to bring the cash to his office located on the sixth floor of the Career Centre. They obliged.
The forex dealers mobilised up to USD 315,000 (Rwf 270 million) and transported it to the suspects’ office.
They found the accomplice who was referred to as the boss. As the boss conman, counted the money, he deposited it in a safe deposit box built into the office walls.
After counting the money, he locked the safe and asked the forex dealers to wait for him in his office. He claimed that he was off to go and collect the Rwandan Francs so that he can pay for the dollars.
The forex dealers waited - in vain. That was the last of him they have seen or heard.
It later turned out that the conmen had built the safe box in a way that it had an ‘emergency exit’.
He put all the money in the deposit box and while they were waiting, he was on the other side of the wall withdrawing the dollars he had just deposited in the safe.
The conmen then disappeared.
The boss conman has been identified as Said Abdallah
The New Times could not independently verify if the names of the suspects were authentic or aliases used to defraud the gullible businesses.
In a brief interview, Privat Bisamaza, the owner of Career Centre said that he trusted the conmen because of the confidence they exhibited when negotiating for space.
“They told me they would pay later as they were still finalising some documents,” Bisamaza said.
The conmen had been in the building for less than a month. Office space at the Career Centre is leased at USD 17 per square meter.
“When he booked the space, and asked to equip the office, I agreed because I thought there was no problem,” he added.
Bisamaza declined to give more details saying he was in a rush. He, however, granted The New Times access to the building.
When The New Times visited the scene on Tuesday, we found the suppliers of the furniture packing up equipment they had supplied.
“We are at a loss. Even though we are taking back the furniture, we can only resell it as used, which brings the price lower,” said the employee who asked for anonymity saying he needed approval from his boss to speak to the media.
This newspaper also learned that the conmen had promised about 40 people jobs and they would report to the office in the mornings, where they were asked to do research about the new business as they wait to be assigned.
One of the witnesses who spoke to The New Times at the scene said that he saw one of the suspects flee with two bags over his shoulder while the forex dealers were seated in the office.
“The men [forex dealers] waited for their ‘client’ as they chatted and cracked jokes, they sat confidently as they were sure the money was in the safe next to them and he would return and give them the local currency as the exchange,” said the witness.
“After a while, the dealers got tired of waiting and that is when they got suspicious. They then realised their clients were conmen and they alerted security organs,” the source added
Vianney Gasana, the vice-chair of Rwanda Forex Bureau Association, said it was unfortunate that their members had been conned.
He, however, wondered how they could be so trusting.
“It is a huge loss which will affect our members and the association in general,” Gasana said.
He added that the association has an anti-money laundering policy that prohibits movement of such large sums of money in cash.
“The forex dealers should have opted for bank transactions instead, Gasana said, adding that people today should be more vigilant and always carry out due diligence.
Modeste Mbabazi, the spokesperson of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), told The New Times on Tuesday that they had launched an investigation into the cases.