Pipminds International Ltd., a forex trading company, has joined the growing list of companies with fraud schemes in the country. Founded in 2019 with its head office in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the company made an offer to unsuspecting investors, mostly in Akwa Ibom and Rivers State, promising a 15 percent return on investment (ROI) within one month.
However, in early 2021, the company owned by Emem Alban, 44, stopped respecting the agreement it had signed with its more than 2,000 investors and that would cause an uproar.
In August, FIJ reported how the company defrauded a female investor of N1.9 million.
AN INVESTOR WITH A PERSONAL AND CORPORATE PLAN
“The company’s investment plans were introduced to me by a pastor friend in 2020, said an investor who asked not be to named. “When I heard testimonies of how people had been enjoying the returns being paid on their plans, I decided to start with N400,000.”
She said things were going well, and that for the first six months after investing in the business, she got the ROI on a regular basis. She also introduced her mother and some friends to Pipminds.
“During this period, I was introduced to the company’s investment plan for corporate entities. The ROI promised was also 15 percent. In the corporate plan, I invested N2.1 million,” she added.
The investor said that Pipminds International first reneged on the contract it signed in February, when it said it was having problems with its electronic payment platform.
“After this, the company and its officials started giving us one excuse or another over the issues they were having with paying people’s money and this stretched to April.
“They even organised two stakeholder meetings during this period but nothing meaningful came out of it. Mr. Emem Alban did not appear in person during the meetings.”
FROM ANOTHER INVESTOR WITH TWO PERSONAL PLANS
“I invested N4 million for myself and N600,000 for my wife in November 2020,” said another investor. “The ROI promised was 15 percent every month.”
He further said that after investing, he received the ROI for November and December.
“Since January, however, I am yet to receive anything from the company,” he said.
Contrary to a memo sent by the company, in which it claimed to have paid over 40 investors in July, the investor said no one got a dime from it.
In another memo sent to investors in July, the company switched from its initial excuse of payment problem on its electronic platforms to “a global draw down on the forex trading market as a result of the influence of world economies” and the discovery of internal loopholes in its system.
“We last heard from the company through the email it sent in August. Apart from that, nothing concrete has been done in terms of how we would get our capital back,” he added.
The investor also said that billions of Naira was invested by over 2,000 investors.
A VISIT TO NUNG IKONO OBIO COMMUNITY
When investors realised Pipminds Ltd. was a fraudulent business, some decided to visit Nung Ikono Obio community, where Emem Alban was a resident, to register their discontent.
A third investor told FIJ that Alban was known for his philanthropy in the community in the Uruan Local Government Area of the state.
EMEM ALBAN BUILT A CHURCH FOR THE COMMUNITY
“He is quite popular in his community. Apart from helping a few people to renovate their houses, he also built a church,” the investor said.
When Alban could not be seen during the visit, the investors decided to complain to the head of the community who promised to reach him.
“The village head expressed shock at the news and promised us that he would do whatever he could to help find a lasting solution to the matter. However, we later heard that when the community head was able to reach him, he told the man not to interfere in an office matter that had nothing to do with the community,” the investor explained.
EMEM ALBAN’S WHEREABOUTS
An independent investigation by FIJ revealed that Pipminds’ corporate headquarters in Uyo has since been shut down. In July, a few investors had petitioned the Akwa Ibom Police Command about the company’s activities and this resulted in the arrest of a few of its staff.
“In the end, they were released when it became clear that the fraud was single-handedly carried out by Alban,” another investor said. “All the initial ROIs he paid were just to win people’s trust and get further referrals from them. When he eventually hit us, no one saw it coming.”
Although no one seems sure of Alban’s whereabouts at the moment, some investors believe he’s still in the country.
“I believe he is still in Nigeria. I’ve heard one or two people say they saw him sneak into Uyo. Some even said he normally visits clubs in the company of heavily armed men on weekends to buy people drinks. The problem is that no one has been able to trace him to a particular location in the state,” added the investor.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH BLESSING ASUQUO
After placing calls to many numbers on the company’s site and pages without success, FIJ eventually reached a lady who introduced herself as Blessing Asuquo, a worker at Pipminds.
According to her, the company was still trying to trade so it could pay investors.
When asked how soon investors would be paid, she said she could not give a date because payments were being made in an ‘ascending order’, from the least amount to the highest amount, and that each investor would get paid once its their turn.
When she was asked if she could share Alban’s phone number, she said, “There is no way. I don’t even get in touch with him.”
Asuquo said she only communicated with her line manager whom she simply referred to as Adaugo.
She also declined to give Adaugo’s contact upon request, saying there was no official line to reach her.
Be the first to receive special investigative reports and features in your inbox.