In July 2019, Seyi Beckley’s Phresh Farms Ltd., an agri-tech startup, actively marketed its offers to interested investors. Through its agents sent to court clients, the company attracted investors with a promised monthly Return on Investment (ROI) of 20 percent.
But recently, there have been complaints from investors who have neither recovered their capital nor the promised ROIs since May.
AN INVESTOR CONVINCED BY A PASTOR
“I was introduced to the investment in August, last year, by Adeola Adesina, who also happened to be a pastor. Initially, I had my doubts, but she assured me that it was a legitimate business, and that she had been working with the company as an agent for quite a while,” an investor, who asked not to be named, told FIJ.
“She also claimed to know its owner personally and that they regularly had meetings. She went out of her way to convince me to invest in the business. Because I knew her as a pastor, I decided to take a shot. She even assured me that if anything happened to my money, the risk was hers.”
Adesina also told the investor that the owner of the company was a well respected elderly man whose daughter was a close friend.
A BILLION NAIRA PROCESSING PLANT
The investor learned Fresh Farms was into cashew processing and exportation business. She was also told that the company was after more investors because it was planning to build a one billion naira processing plant.
“I invested several millions on hearing that the company’s payment structure would soon change from monthly 20 percent ROI to 30 percent ROI every three months. I thought if I was early enough, the 20 percent profit I’d made would count for something.”
However, in May, the huge capital began to count for nothing, because it did not produce any benefit for the investor. Phresh said that it was having trouble with his main bank account and that there could be no solution until June. It then promised to pay investors on June 8.
ANOTHER EXCUSE IN JUNE
On June 7, one day before the newly scheduled payment date, the company hosted a stakeholder meeting at its office in Bodija, Ibadan. Those who were unable to make it to the office were to join the meeting through Zoom.
“Seyi Beckley was the first person to address us. That was the first time I saw him physically. What first struck me was how young he looked. I struggled to make sense out of what Pastor Adesina, who is in her forties, had told me about being close friends with Beckley’s daughter, but I couldn’t. The CEO could never have had a grown-up daughter. It meant she had been lying to me about knowing him personally all along,” the aggrieved investor further explained.
During the meeting, Beckley reportedly told investors that the company’s farm had been destroyed because of the activities of Fulani herdsmen.
“This statement led us to wonder how an agricultural processing company, which had in the past stated that it processed and exported its products, suddenly own a farmland which had become a target for the Fulani herdsmen in a southwest state.
FIJ learned that Beckley was unable to provide convincing answers to all the questions the investors asked. The company also continued to email investors without telling them when it would pay.
PAYMENT OF 20 PERCENT ROI TO A CATEGORY OF INVESTORS
Phresh Farms said it would resume the payment of 20 percent ROI. However, it only paid the said percentage to investors who had N100,000 or less.
ACTIVE MEMBERS AT A NEW GENERATION CHURCH
FIJ found that Seyi, and Nellie Joy Beckley, his wife who is a member of the company’s board and also played an active role in convincing investors about the business, were music ministers at a new generation church in Ibadan. Nellie is also a recording gospel artiste.
“The company’s financial consultant also attends the same church as the Beckleys. We later discovered that all the company’s top officials and directors are members of the same church,” said the investor.
TWO OTHER AGGRIEVED INVESTORS
Another investor, who also asked not to be named, said: “I initially invested N250,000 with Phresh Farms. Later, I added N118,500, making it N368,500. Since May, no one has received a dime.”
He also said the moment the crisis started, Seyi and Nellie deleted most of the pictures that used to be on their social media pages.
“As far as I am concerned, Phresh Farms is a team of criminals that have perfected the art of tricking people into investing their money in phantom agricultural projects. When it became obvious that they were a fraud, they couldn’t provide a single document or evidence to show that they were indeed into such business. They have also been largely irresponsible in their approach to things. Based on trust, N500,000 was invested on my behalf.”
He suspected the couple invested in a crypto-currency business that went bad in the end.
“Apart from taking advantage of the level of poverty that would push people to want to invest in anything that could multiply their money, they also betrayed the trust people had in them,” the investor further said.
He also told FIJ that the total money Phresh Farms collected from its over 1,500 investors could not be less than N500 million.
“They need to come out and tell us what exactly they invested the money in, because it is quite obvious that they are not into any farming business,” he said.
EVASIVE PASTOR ADEOLA ADESINA
When FIJ sought a reaction from Adesina, she declined to comment until the name of the investor who implicated her was mentioned.
FIJ made several phone calls to both Seyi and Nellie. While Nellie’s phone number was unreachable, Seyi’s phone rang the three times but he did not answer. Text messages sent to the couple’s telephone numbers did not receive a reply.
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