19 people, including top government officials who bought houses at the Hill View Estates from controversial real estate developer, DN International, have petitioned President Paul Kagame requesting him to stop the auction of the houses.
The victims, who talked to The New Times, claimed that they were conned into purchasing the houses by the CEO of DN International, Nathan Lloyd.
Among those likely to lose the houses they fully paid for include, Senate president, Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Deputy Commissioner General of Rwanda Correctional Service, Mary Gahonzire and East African Legislative Assembly member, Patricia Hajabakiga.
Others on the list include renowned businessmen. Each of the houses cost Rwf 55 million.
Genesis of the scam
In 2007, DN International acquired a loan of over Rwf 848 million from Fina Bank to develop 28 housing units, in Masaka Sector of Kigali City.
The developer entered into a mortgage arrangement with the bank to pay back the bank after selling off the houses and in 2008 began selling the houses.
Intriguingly, the houses were bought even before their completion. All the victims paid DN International in the form of cheques and bank transfers and still possess transaction documents as proof of payment.
They only realised that they were duped when Fina Bank placed an advert in The New Times notifying the public of an auction of the 19 houses.
Since then, victims moved to stop the auction that was initially scheduled for August 25. This was put on hold following a new agreement between the financier and the developer.
Part of the agreement was for the developer to reimburse the first installment of Rwf 100million in 45 days effective August 11 implying that the deadline for repaying the first installment was September 24.
DN International was also supposed to pay back the second payment of Rwf 315million before September 24.
Meanwhile, in the process of negotiating payment terms, the victims reported the case to the police who promptly arrested Lloyd. He was later released on bail which he has reportedly jumped.
He is currently believed to be outside the country.
However, none of the agreed clauses were honoured by the developer although the Managing Director of the heavily indebted company, Joseph Kapukha, claimed that he managed to raise the first installment of Rwf 100 million a bit late which the bank rejected on grounds that the agreement had already been breached.
This led to the bank placing a second auction advert in The New Times which is slated for November 18.
Victims cry foul
The victims claim they were ripped off since they were not informed about the arrangement between Fina Bank and the developer.
When DN International was selling off the houses, it deposited some money in Fina Bank while the rest was channelled to other accounts, including account number 5035610-68 in BCR.
One of the victims who preferred anonymity said that he petitioned the Office of the Ombudsman but never got a response.
“We decided to table our grievances to the Head of State, President Paul Kagame, asking for his intervention. We are very optimistic he will help us,” noted the victim.
According to Ntawukuriryaryo, following the purchase of his house, he requested DN International to give him his title deed but they kept telling him they were processing them until he took the matter to court.
Fina Bank is currently holding the land titles of all the 19 houses.
“I took the matter to court and won the case. I am currently waiting for the bailiff to execute the court order. Although my house is listed among those to be auctioned, I still have hope it won’t be auctioned,” said Ntawukuriryayo.
He hastened to add that he is very concerned that people struggled to save money but ended up losing their assets to ‘conmen’.
Another victim, Canisius Karitanyi Rwasabahizi, together with his wife Caritas Kampala, sold their house in DR Congo to purchase a house at Hill View Estate.
“I am an old man, I was looking at this house as somewhere I would stay for the rest of my life but I was robbed by a fraudster,” Rwasabahizi lamented.
Rwasabazi’s family paid Rwf 50 million for house number 27 in 2008 before its completion. Later, he realised it was poorly constructed and requested that they offer him another house within the estate.
“I was told to pay an extra Rwf 2 million for another house at their Rusororo Project which I did because I was at their mercy. I paid an upfront of Rwf 22.5million for another house in Rusororo,” said Rwasabahizi.
DN International later approached Rwasabahizi’s family and asked them to pay Rwf 555,895 for the occupancy permit which they did.
Another victim, Jeanne Francoise Umuzigambeho, said that she paid the developer a total of Rwf 55.5million in 2008 by cheque for house number 25.
“DN International was always in the news, ministers and other high ranking officials had bought houses in the estate, so I acquired a loan to purchase this house. There was no way I could suspect fraud,” said Umuzigambeho.
In a previous interview with The New Times, another victim, Victor Nduwumwami, said that he paid the full amount for the house to DN International a year ago but his house is among those listed for the auction.
“I paid the full amount to DN International but I wasn’t served with ownership papers. Every time I asked the CEO of DN International (Nathan Lloyd), he remained elusive saying that he was processing the papers,” Nduwumwami said.
He added that there was something suspicious about the way DN International was conducting business.
When asked what would be the next option if all the 19 houses are auctioned, the MD of DN International, Kapukha, said that he is currently in talks with his financial partners to come up with ways of ‘containing the situation.’
“We are weighing all options possible; we are looking at the worst case scenario of taking a risk and give them houses on our new project in Rusororo although it is not formal yet,” said Kapukha.
He added that; “in case we are to consider this arrangement, I would enter into negotiations with my financial partners because the Rusororo houses are more expensive than those at Hill View.”