Geoffrey Kiragu, the founder of troubled Lesedi Developers Ltd – a land selling company at the centre of a nearly Sh1 billion scandal – sat pensively at Thika Law Courts on Monday.
He was alone; no pomp or colour for a man who used to be accompanied by social media influencers and radio presenters marketing his enterprise just months ago.
When he appeared for a bond application ruling before Chief Magistrate Stellar Atambo, Mr Kiragu was downcast.
Hundreds of duped investors were in and out of the court, hoping for news of being closer to recovering their money.
Mr Kiragu’s lawyer, John Khaminwa, had on Thursday last week pleaded with the court to free him on a lenient cash bail or bond, saying his client was not a flight risk and that he had cooperated with investigators.
The latter was declined. More gloomy news hit Mr Kiragu on Monday, when the magistrate failed to rule on whether he should be freed on bail or bond.
Ms Atambo said she had not been furnished with a pre-bail report, meaning Mr Kiragu would remain behind bars for seven more days. He had been apprehended on September 13.
The ruling on the bail application will be on Monday.
Even as this happens, more shock awaits buyers pegging their hope on refund after Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Land Fraud Unit told the Saturday Nation that Lesedi Developers Ltd bank accounts have nothing. Money was apparently withdrawn in cash transactions of Sh900,000 to Sh950,000.
“Preliminary investigations show that buyers who lost their money to Lesedi Developers Ltd may get justice if the accused is prosecuted, but they may never recover their money because the company’s bank accounts are empty,” one of the detectives handling the matter said in confidence as she is not authorised to share the information with journalists.
“What we have traced and was paid electronically is ordinary consumables. It appears the money was withdrawn in cash and probably deposited in another country,” another senior detective at the DCI headquarters said.
Last week before Mr Kiragu was transferred to Thika lawcourts from Kiambu over matters of jurisdiction – given that he operated his business in Thika town – his lawyer had pleaded with the court to force the prosecution team to lift a red alert issued against the accused after the state termed him a flight risk.
Mr Kiragu’s family members are known to be in the United Kingdom.
He was arrested in Kenol, Murang’a County, after being trailed by detectives from Ithanga where he had gone to sell land to other people.
In December last year when the Daily Nation was investigating the hundreds of complaints against Lesedi Ltd, Mr Kiragu said he was inspired by Kenneth Lay to start a real estate company.
Lay is remembered for his role in one of the biggest frauds in history.
His company – energy giant Enron Corporation – was ranked seventh in the list of America’s largest and most profitable firms in 2000.
Later, Lay was charged with six counts, including conspiracy and fraud but died of a heart attack before being convicted.
“If you are a keen reader, perhaps you know the evolution of Enron Corporation. Its founder Kenneth Lay is one of the people who inspired me to start Lesedi Developers Ltd four years ago,” Mr Kiragu told the Daily Nation early last month when we reached out to him.
“He may have had flaws but I borrow a lot of business lessons from him.”
Clients who had bought land with his company now claim he had defrauded them of Sh1 billion in total.
Mr Kiragu had said in the interview that he had sold property valued at Sh1 billion.
He admitted having registered another company called Tunza Realtors.
The company was reportedly involved in double allocations after it became known that Lesedi Developers Ltd was being investigated in a land scandal.
Tunza Realtors Ltd
“The problem between Lesedi Developers Ltd and its investors should not be associated with Tunza Realtors Ltd, which I co-own with another investor. On the Lesedi matter, we understand we are having challenges with the people who sold land to us. We are optimistic the matter will be settled soon,” he said.
“I admit that we have sold land valued at almost Sh1 billion and we are sorry for the confusion to the investors. With time, we will deliver.”
Among the many complainants is Mr Mark Wairi Kimani, who says Mr Kiragu defrauded him of Sh749,000 between February and March last year after he failed to conclusively sell him land.
“On diverse dates between February 15, 2022 and March 25, 2022 in Thika within Kiambu County, while trading as Lesedi Developers Ltd – with the intent to defraud – you obtained Sh749,000 from Mark Wairi Kimani by pretending you were in a position to sell plots number 66 and 331 excised from land parcel Thika Municipality Block 40/2414, a fact you knew to be false,” reads one of the charge sheets.
Mr Kiragu denies the fraud charges. Lesedi Developers mainly sold land in Muthaara, Juja, Nakuru and Nanyuki.