Heartbreak for pyramid scam victims

Monday March 08 2021
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By Daniel Mjema

Moshi. Investigations have been mounted over a shadowy pyramid scheme in Kilimanjaro Region reported to have conned people millions of shillings.
About 40,000 people are said to have fallen victim to managers of the scheme who promised to extend loans, provide employment and food as well as build churches.
Clergymen with a church group called United Missionary Foundation Tanzania (UMF) are reported to have been conned Sh85,550 each.
A member of the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were promised employment of salaries not below Sh500,000 per person.
Besides Sh85,550, they were forced to surrender another Sh22,000 each, which the sponsor promised to top up for construction of church buildings.
Owners of the pyramid scheme, now under investigation, also promised a hefty Sh75 million for building projects for the church groups, mostly in Hai District.
Investigations by The Citizen indicated that up to 800 religious leaders in Hai District have been forced to part with  their hard- earned money to the scheme.
Other residents of the area were forced to part with Sh2,000 each for which they were given coupons on the promise of getting food for their families.
After more than a year since they were made to part with their money in December 2019, the victims of the scheme said they were yet to get what they were promised.
“No church leader has seen a church building being constructed for them. Nobody has secured a job or food support as promised,” those interviewed said.
When reached for comment yesterday, Hai District Commissioner, Lengai Ole Sabaya said he had ordered the arrest of the suspects of the shadowy organisation.
“I have ordered that they be arrested,” he said, noting that Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB) officials were pursuing the matter.
The PCCB commander for Kilimanjaro Region, Ms Frida Wekesi, pleaded to be given time to pursue the issue as she had been indisposed.
Residents neighbouring Moshi and Simanjiro districts in Kilimanjaro and Manyara regions are also reported to have fallen victims to the scheme.
Scores of them living near TPC Limited converged at the sugar processing plant near Moshi yesterday to discuss their plight.
The Hai DC insisted that officials of UMF church group would not be spared under the on-going probe on their role in the scheme, which has baffled many.
Already three officials of the church, whose names have not been revealed, have been summoned for questioning by PCCB.
They are alleged to have been to Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Singida and Manyara regions to raise money from the church converts and other people.
Mr Sabaya added that while preliminary survey indicated the church body, UMF, was not on government register, its officials roped in have been ordered to refund the money.
The money collected from the victims should be refunded within three weeks. For the entire Kilimanjaro Region, it is that estimated 48,000 people were conned.
One of the senior UMF church officials, Julius Dastan confirmed yesterday that indeed they had forced people to contribute to the scheme.
However, he denied any wrong doing, saying failure to honour the promises should not be interpreted as conning of people of their money.
On the registration of the pyramid scheme, he said he was heading to Arusha to have some documents verified by government authorities.
UMF secretary general, Frederick Mahanyu cleared himself from the mysterious scheme, referring this reporter to other officials who could not be reached on phone.