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LandWey ponzi scheme

30.06.2023 Featured ‘Landwey, Money Heist’: A Real Estate Company With Access To Power Is Getting Away With Daylight Ponzi

Published 30th Jun, 2023

By Tarinipre Francis

If words could do it, no single human would have a complaint against Landwey Investment Limited, a gigantic real estate investment company owned by Olawale Ayilara. The company’s mission statement reads: to make real estate investment accessible in a way that is simple, secure, and profitable. But there are well over a hundred Landwey clients who could stone you if you printed that sentence for them. Two of them didn’t mince words in their assessment of both company and founder: they’re operating a real-estate “ponzi scheme”.

For a number of reasons, including manipulation by the real-estate company, an unforgiving PR machinery that grinds anything standing in its way, and an obnoxious contract that protects the company while damaging the clients, most of Landwey’s clients would rather not talk to the press, which explains why FIJ managed to speak with only 10 of them. And it is understandable.

For his age, Ayilara boasts an impressive connection to monarchical and political power, a long list of which includes Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos, and Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife. Landwey’s clients and the people around them often speak about how frequently Ayilara boasts of his relationship with these two, in addition to the police and the judiciary, whenever deservedly angry clients threaten fire and brimstone. He may just be 35, but Ayilara moves everywhere with a police escort.

Fuelled by his multibillions, he operates a heavily-oiled PR machinery that has both Nigerian and foreign media under his grip, and funds a robust digital media team that periodically feeds the public with mouth-watering images of housing offers. To cap it all, Landwey and Ayilara possess deep-enough pockets to hire some of the most devious lawyers around, one proof of which is in the company’s final agreement with prospective clients, as can be seen here.

However, even when Landwey’s clients have tended to be negatively disposed to media interviews, they continue to scamper everywhere for help, including the DMs of FIJ and its founder, sometimes in the hope they can write about their plight without being named, initiate any sort of dispute settlement meeting or assist in putting a class action together.

One of Landewey's victims reached out but stayed away afterwards
One of Landewey’s victims reached out but stayed away afterwards

READ ALSO: RECIRCULATED: The FIJ Story Landwey Wanted Cloudflare to Take Down

COMMITMENT WITH NO INTENTION TO FULFILL

In June 2020, Landwey committed to delivering a N42 million terrace in its Urban Prime 1 Estate to a Nigerian entrepreneur living in Dubai. The terrace was scheduled to be delivered in November 2020. However, November became six months after, and two years more. After much patience, the client told FIJ about how Landwey had tied his investment for over two years.

Askig not to be named, he told FIJ he first deposited N5 million for a terrace in June 2020, followed by another N37 million three weeks after. Landwey then assured him that his house would be ready in November 2020.

Landwey would later tell him he would get another house on a different estate in Ogombo, Lagos, as they had sold the one that caught his fancy.

READ ALSO: Only 12 Apartments Were Available. But Lagos Builder, ‘Landlord’ Collected Money from 142 House Seekers

“In November 2020, they told me to be patient as they had not completed the house. Landwey asked me to wait for three full months. By this time, I had already left Dubai for Nigeria. Being patient, I waited for another three months, but they did not give me my house,” he told FIJ.

“In the first half of 2021, I called them several times to find out why they were yet to hand me the keys to the house, but they kept telling me to be patient. In the second half of the year, they stopped taking my calls. I do not know why.”

URBAN PRIME, PREMIUM DISAPPOINTMENT

Another subscriber who fully paid Landey in 2020 but is still awaiting the promised house.
Another subscriber who fully paid Landey in 2020 but is still awaiting the promised house. The complaint was made back in March

There was also Opeoluwa, who paid N22 million to Landwey in installments between February 15, 2021 and April 4, 2022 for a two-bedroom housing unit in Urban Prime 1. It was to be handed over to him in June 2022.

Opeoluwa planned to use the property for a rental business, but in August when he consulted his agent about his property, he was informed that Landwey had moved the delivery timeline by six months, to December. Opeoluwa said December turned into January, and then March, and most recently, “soon”.

Till date, Landwey has refused to communicate a definitive time for delivery to him.

“I could be using the unit for something like an AirBnB and earning income,” Opeoluwa told FIJ. But I don’t hold any hope that they would deliver anytime soon. They are unreliable.”

WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LANDWEY WANTS TO PUT ASUNDER

Gabriel's conversation with Landwey’s agent
Gabriel’s conversation with Landwey’s agent

In 2020, Gabriel* subscribed to a unit of two-bedroom apartment in Landwey’s Milton Estate. At the time, he was pursuing a master’s outside Nigeria. Landwey promised him it would be ready in 2020. Therefore, Gabriel planned a return to Nigeria with his wife after the programme, to start a family at the apartment. Those plans were disrupted.

“The building has been at the same level since 2020,” Gabriel told FIJ after a visit to his N17 million two-bedroom apartment in Landwey’s Milton Estate on March 8, 2020. His apartment should have been completed eight months from the time of his allocation, that is February 26, 2021, but it remains incomplete afeter a series of postponed delivery dates.

In June, he confirmed to FIJ that nothing had changed. Three years since he paid, and there is no two-bedroom home to show for it. “Landwey delayed our marriage and settling down plans,” he said.

N40MILLION DOWN THE DRAIN

An incomplete structure in Landwey's Milton Estate
An incomplete structure in Landwey’s Milton Estate
Milton Estate
Milton Estate

Gabriel estimates that his losses have reached at least N40 million, considering the current dollar rate, the cost of travels to monitor the project, and the cost of purchasing a new apartment.

“I flew to Nigeria twice to check on the building, in December 2020 and December 2021. I came with my wife on each occasion, and each flight cost N3 million.

“On each occasion, I was in the country for over a month, staying in hotels and putting up with family and friends.”

With no home to return to, Gabriel was forced to extend his stay outside the country even though he had completed his programme. That was, however, only a band aid. He was forced to purchase a new home for N14 million so that he and his family could return to the country.

Now, after three years of waiting, Gabriel’s options are either to demand a refund from Landwey or wait for the company to complete his building. Remember, if he dares request a refund from Landwey, which he is not guaranteed to receive, he would be paid only 60 percent of his money as per the contract, even though he wasn’t the defaulter.

Gabriel says if the money was still with him, he would have turned it over, being a farmer, businessman and student.

“I would have traded the money or put it into a business; I would probably have doubled it,” he told FIJ.

“When I made that investment three years ago, there was no other one I would have put it in without knowing the proceeds, even at 10 percent interest per year. So, Landwey really tied down my dreams and aspirations.

“If the house was ready and I was just reselling, I know how much I would be making. If you bought a property for N10m in 2020, you can sell it for N15, N20million now. This is bad business with a useless company; very silly, very, very [sic] silly.”

Landwey’s refund policies are clear but dubious. Clients would concede a combined total of 40 percent of their money to the company for administrative and agency charges. This would cut clients’ returns in manifolds, and according to Gabriel, would not give him the same value as it would have three years ago.

LANDWEY RUNNING A PONZI SCHEME

As far as he is concerned, Landwey is operating a ponzi scheme.

“I think what they are perpetrating is a ponzi scheme,” he says.

“After a series of meetings, they have moved on to Hockley; I don’t know if you’re aware. There is a land there; they have not developed it. Then their latest scheme is Isinmi Lagos, one useless solar city that that they take pictures of, and pay influencers to market.

“I think they are probably cash-strapped at the moment, so what they are doing is selling other places in order to fund existing projects. How can you be selling like two, three more projects, when you have not delivered something people have paid for as far back as 2020? It’s crazy to me. That’s a ponzi scheme. Plain ponzi scheme!”

READ ALSO: Landwey Makes Second Attempt to Take FIJ’s Website Down

PONZI-STYLE MARKETING

Landwey's N20bn commercial paper issuance for new project
Landwey’s N20bn commercial paper issuance for new project featured prominently in at least two of Nigeria’s most read newspapers on April 25. None of them ran anything on the company’s hundreds of cheated clients.

Landwey’s failure to keep to its agreements has not slowed them from venturing into even more ambitious real estate expansions. While investments of Opeoluwa, Gabriel and scores of others lay moribund due to their failings, they have mapped out a new project, unnerving aggrieved clients even more.

Temitope*, one of Landwey’s victims, who made complete payment for two properties three years ago, said his second property was still on foundation level to date, but “Wale keeps moving from one building to another”.

“He is not done with a project and goes ahead to create another project,” Temitope said.

Ayilara’s strategy has been deliberate and consistent: receive money from clients to deliver a property within six to eight months, extend delivery timelines citing frivolous reasons, return only 60% of frustrated investors’ funds, resell their land to other bidders at higher value after three or more years of land appreciation, expand into even more audacious projects, raking in great profits for Landwey.

Currently, Landwey is inviting investments in its Isinmi Lagos project in the Epe area of Lagos State, where it has promised to build a city that prioritises a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. However, it has yet to deliver housing to already-existing clients whose property delivery dates it claims were delayed by COVID-19 and EndSARS, among other things.

An interior decor whose work cannot proceed without Landwey
An interior decor whose work cannot proceed without Landwey
An interior decor whose work cannot proceed without Landwey

WHY DO THEY GET AWAY WITH IT?

“I don’t know,” says Gabriel. “Maybe they have friends in government or they have the backings of top, top people who help them bypass the law.”

Apart from Ayilara’s relationship with the Lagos State government, which he continually bandies about, FIJ independently confirmed that he does have a close relationship with the Ooni of Ife, himself a master of real-estate ponzi for which his ascension to the throne has since offered him immunity.

It is now more than two years since FIJ first reported how Adeyeye Ogunwusi’s companies allocated apartments and land that existed only on paper to hundreds of investors, after which he became the Ooni of Ife, making him highly connected culturally and politically, and somewhat above the law. As if emboldened by the proverbial saying that ‘a king has dominion over all things’, hundreds of investors were never refunded. Ogunwusi’s Gran Imperio Group’s multi-million-naira Essential Homes scheme is described by many as the biggest fraud seen yet in Nigeria’s real estate history.

READ MORE: How Ooni Ogunwusi’s Companies Executed the Biggest Fraud in Nigeria’s Real Estate History — and Got Away With it

Monies paid by members of the public to the Ooni’s companies for land and housing that never came were to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira, with many of the victims declining to speak for fear of spiritual consequences on account of the throne. However, when 10 more victims reached out to FIJ after the initial story, their payments totalled N99million.

That’s not all. The Ooni and the late Buruji Kashamu once conspired to use their political influence to grab N20 billion worth of land belonging to Adeniran Adedokun, a Lagos-based surveyor. 

READ MORE: ‘Over N99m and Still Counting’ — 10 More Victims of Ooni’s Real Estate Fraud Speak Out

COVID-19, ENDSARS NOT ENOUGH TO PREVENT AYILARA FROM RABID PERSONAL HOUSING ACQUISITION

On October 17, 2021, Landwey sent an email to Emmanuel Adebayo* to apologize for missing their delivery timeline and failing to communicate it promptly.

“The delay has been caused by factors beyond our control,” the mail read in part, mentioning COVID-19, EndSARS, contractor’s time efficiencies, scarcity of labour and inflation of construction materials as reasons for this inevitable delay, an excuse they had continued regurgitating for five years.

A subsequent press statement filled with untruths was also sent to some Nigerian newspapers.

A June 9, 2023 advertorial by Landwey in a number of Nigerian newspapers disguising why residential projects had not been completed
A June 9, 2023 advertorial by Landwey in a number of Nigerian newspapers disguising why residential projects had not been completed

“In August 2019, we embarked on an ambitious residential project to provide and deliver 2,000 housing units by 2024, a vision we still aim to achieve,” the statement reads.

“Despite the company’s optimism at the start of the project we have been faced with unforeseen circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting effects, coupled with Nigeria’s fluctuating economic factors and its economic repercussions, causing setbacks of unanticipated delays that have impacted our original timeline for some project delivery.”

However, these obstacles had not prevented Ayilara, the Landwey CEO, from acquiring magnificient multiple homes in Nigeria, including in Lagos and Abeokuta, and overseas, specifically in the United Kingdom.

FIJ can confirm that Ayilara recently purchased a £720,000 house (N655.2 million at the exchange rate when FIJ made the discovery in March) in River Thames, southern England. FIJ understands that although Ayilara did love the house, he was dissatisfied with the limited space and the absence of a garden. For that reason, he proceeded to purchase a four-bedroom house with a garden and adequate space worth £325,000 (N295.8million at the time of FIJ’s conversion) in Milton Keynes. Neither COVID-19 nor ENDSARS prevented him from making both purchases, which cost him nearly £1 million in one-off payments.

LAND REALLOCATION WITHOUT DELIVERY

Adebayo’s invoice for a 3-bedroom terrace

In April 2022, Adebayo, who had been out of the country, returned to Nigeria and visited his N56.9 million three-bedroom semi-detached terrace and corner piece in Landwey’s Urban Prime 4 Lavadia estate, only to find it at the foundation level.

“It was shocking, and I couldn’t hold the tears and anger back,” Adebayo told FIJ.

On March 16, 2023, when Adebayo visited his unit again, he found it as he last saw it in April 2022, nearly a year before. 

“These people have been tossing my life back and forth with false promises,” Adebayo, aggrieved, said to FIJ.


Landwey's Urban Prime Four Estate

Landwey's Urban Prime Four Estate
Landwey’s Urban Prime Four Estate

Landwey's Urban Prime Four Estate

Landwey not only missed agreed deadlines, they also changed clients agreed properties at their discretion, allocating and relocating their units at will without giving them an opportunity to weigh in.

Adebayo had paid for a three-bedroom semi-detached terrace and corner piece, but he was reallocated to another unit, which, according to Seun Osigbesan, Landwey’s head of client relations, was more advanced. Adebayo, though, did not share the opinion.

REALLOCATION BY FORCE

Notification of reallocation from Landwey to the Kolawole
Notification of reallocation from Landwey to the Kolawole

In four years, Landwey attempted to reallocate Aina Kolawole’s* two plots of land three times.

After their second attempt, Kolawole wrote the firm, saying, “You cannot assign or reassign what is no longer yours; you cannot give what you don’t have.”

He had paid N4.5 million each for the plots in Landwey’s Westwood Park estate I in 2017, but found out that Landwey had reassigned him to units in Westwood 2, a different scheme from the one he paid and signed a contract of sales for.

Mail from Kolawole to Landwey
Mail from Kolawole to Landwey

Unwilling to give up his original units, Kolawole refused the reallocation. However, to retain his original units, Landwey demanded an extra N1.5 million. This was for ‘upgrade’ to his original plots.

Reluctantly, he paid, but in 2019 when he went to finalize purchase of another unit for his sister-in-law, he found out that Landwey had not “upgraded” his unit to his original plot.

Despite stating clearly that he would not accept a reallocation of his property to a different scheme, Landwey sent another email to notify him of a reallocation of his plot.

TWO CLIENTS, CONTRASTING FATES

Landwey's Urban Prime Four Estate
Landwey’s Urban Prime Four Estate

Bisi Akande*, a realtor, told FIJ that Landwey tied down the investments of two of her clients due to their failure to meet scheduled deadlines.

Akande disclosed that the two clients bought a total of five units: two at Phase 1 of Landwey’s Urban Prime estate (an apartment and a terrace), which one of them paid outright within a six-month period, and the others at Phase 2 of the estate, for which the client phased payment over 18 months.

She said it has been three years since they made payment for the properties, and only the client with two units in phase 1 of the estate has received a completed property.

“Even those were delayed,” she told FIJ, adding that the remaining units in Phase 2 remain abandoned, three years later.

Akande says that until Landwey delivers, her client will not pay a documentation fee of N1.25 million and an extra two to three million naira to make up the total payment.

MULTIPLE FRAUD ACCUSATIONS BY FOREIGN-BASED NIGERIANS

Allegations of fraud against LandWey by  US-based Nigerian
Allegations of fraud against LandWey by  US-based Nigerian

In an April 2022 report, The Street Journal detailed how a US-based Nigerian said Ayilara and Landwey had defrauded her and stopped responding to her after she invested N19.5 million over a nine-month period for a one-bedroom unit in their Urban Prime development in Ogombo, Lagos.

The woman was the second foreign-based Nigerian in three weeks to level fraud accusations against Ayilara and Landwey. She had started making payments in February 2021 after Landwey assured her that her December 2021 deadline for moving into her home would be met.

She lamented that Landwey then became evasive for many months, before offering some weak explanations and then disappearing again.

“It seems readily apparent that the construction projects Landwey is retailing are a little more than an elaborate ponzi scheme or lottery programme, neither of which is the guaranteed property investment I signed up for…,” she said.

“So far, my dealings with Landwey have depleted my life savings and peace of mind, placed me in severe financial jeopardy and at risk of becoming homeless or attacked, given the current insecurity conditions in Nigeria.”

The apartment, which was due for inspection and occupancy in December 2021, is now scheduled for handover in December 2023, two years after the agreed delivery timeline. Just like previous failed promises, nobody knows if the latest is real or imaginary.

READ ALSO: How Olawale Ayilara’s Landwey Falsified Information to Get FIJ’s Website Suspended

AN INDUSTRY WITHOUT REGULATION

Victim of LandWey ponzi scheme
A LinkenIn user seeks help in securing house key after two-and-a-half fruitless years
Victim of LandWey ponzi scheme
A Twitter user paid for a straightforward purchase. Three years after, the house hasn’t been delivered

Landwey has operated without fear of repercussions, failing to meet agreements and instituting recompense that equates to getting a slap on the wrist, while, if the tables turned, clients would be refunded only 60% of their money at the same rate as when it was paid, with 30 percent lost to agency fees and another 10 percent to administrative charges.

Landwey’s apology email to Adebayo
Landwey’s apology email to Adebayo
Landwey’s apology email to Adebayo

Ariemi Egbe, mortgage finance expert, linked the impunity exhibited in the real estate sector to a lack of regulation. He said this made it easy for developers to default and institute agreements that place the bulk of the liability on clients.

Speaking on Ayilara’s 40 percent compensation in the event that frustrated clients terminate their contracts, Egbe highlighted that as the years progress, a property’s value increases, and if a client’s money is returned to them, especially with 40 percent less of their initial fee, the clients operate at a loss while developers profit.

“The ongoing devaluation of the naira further exacerbates customers’ losses, implying that the value of clients’ monies would be significantly lower if refunded at the same rate it was paid years ago,” he said.

He also noted that although developers typically operate unfairly, investors, sometimes, do not carefully read contracts before signing them.

But Kolawole, for instance, carried out his due diligence. He researched the real estate company, visited the plots, even establishing a cordial relationship with Ayilara, yet his home, which should have been ready in one year, is still unavailable in its fifth year.

He has now, through his solicitors, asked the real estate company to either give him the plots he paid for or refund the extra N1.5 million paid for an upgrade at a 15 percent interest rate, with a second option to keep the plots at their original location, not subject to a reallocation.

Alternatively, he also offered to sell the plot back to Landwey, still requesting a refund of the extra N1.5 million paid for an upgrade, with a 15 percent interest rate.

Landwey opted for the last option and negotiated an eight percent interest rate, proposing a refund within 90 days from the request date.

Ninety days passed, and Kolawole did not receive any refund or keys to a developed home since the payment of their N3,480,000 development fee in 2022.

A STRANGE ZOOM MEETING WITH MUTED ATTENDEES

Soon after FIJ’s initial news reports on Landwey, FIJ noticed that the same people who reported being victims of Landwey no longer appeared interested in sharing their stories.

Despite having established contact with FIJ, they declined to have any further communication.

Take Temitope, for instance, who, after reporting his ordeal with Landwey to FIJ, ghosted the organisation. The tweet he sent to FIJ has now disappeared, along with his Twitter account. 

Also, despite seeing FIJ’s messages on WhatsApp, Temitope has given no responses and refused to take any calls. The same is true for several other persons who contacted FIJ to report being conned by Landwey.

In addition, FIJ also established that in March, following a series of exchange between Landwey and FIJ, Ayilara held a virtual meeting with over 100 aggrieved clients, during which he apologized for defaulting on agreements and asked for a grace period of six months to address all their concerns. But it was a strange meeting.

“It was a monologue,” a lawyer who attended the meeting told FIJ. “He did all the talking and muted every attendee. Nobody else was allowed to say a word; we couldn’t even ask questions.”

LANDWEY PLAYING THE EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL GAME

Yomi Adeseyoju, Founding and Managing Partner at Landwey's attorney Eximious Partners
Yomi Adeseyoju, Founding and Managing Partner at Landwey’s attorney Eximious Partners
 Landwey's attorney Eximious Partners

On March 8, FIJ offered Landwey the opportunity to respond to evidences of payment without housing provided by its subscribers. Rather than address the issues, Landwey’s legal counsel, Eximious Partners, sent an error-strewn letter accusing FIJ of “cyberbullying, cyberstalking, cyber harassment, cyber terrorism, witch hunting, and perpetuating calculated mischief against Ayilara and Landwey”. Eximious also accused FIJ of involvement in “clandestine gorilla scheme” [sic] — an expression not known to exist in the English Lexicon.

“Our attention has been brought to the clandestine gorilla scheme [sic] of your Company and its employees, which can only be adjudged as continuous online bullying, harassment, cyber stalking [sic], cyber bullying [sic] and cyber terrorism [sic] of their clients and their staff,” read a part of the letter.

“What is more surprising is that your company’s recent enquiries and constant harassment of our Clients’ subscribers and Staff is way below the ethics of journalism tenets [sic] expected of a journalist [sic] and can only be found in Journalism’s [sic] Hall of Shame.”

‘NO INTEGRITY WHATSOEVER’

LandWey

While Eximious, Ayilara and Landwey continue to evade the hard questions, those who invested heavily in Landwey’s real estate continue to suffer.

“Then “I got depressed because it played out to be some kind of scheme,” Adebayo says. “Landwey and their people keep giving the same lame excuses; they have no integrity whatsoever.”

Editor’s Note: Names with asterisk are pseudonyms

Independent, public-interest journalism has never been more vital than in times like this when truth is constantly being suppressed. With your support, it will be easier for us to continue speaking truth to power and preserving your right to know

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Published 30th Jun, 2023

By Tarinipre Francis

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