The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has sealed off a real estate firm, The First Group Company, for allegedly defrauding prominent Nigerians to the tune of $200bn. Detectives of the EFCC, attached to the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering, were said to have stormed the office of the company located on the seventh-floor of the Bank of Industry building in the Central Business District, Abuja, on Tuesday, and sealed off the company.
According to the anti-graft agency, the company is implicated in a phoney real estate deal in which innocent Nigerians were duped to the tune of $200bn. Operatives of the EFCC had, in May, 2016, raided the office as part of investigations into the alleged property fraud. Several implicating documents were said to have been discovered, including a list of high profile patrons.
The EFCC said, “Investigations into the scam revealed that the company, originally known as TFG Real Estate Limited, operates in Nigeria in the guise of being The First Group company, a Dubai-based real estate firm, which is not registered in Nigeria.
“The modus operandi of the company is to lure innocent Nigerians, interested in owning properties in Dubai, into parting with their hard-earned money. They are mandated to make the payments in instalments; however, the payment is deliberately structured in such a way that the debt is difficult to offset, and as soon as one defaults, the money will be ‘seized’ by the company.”
However, a senior employee in the company denied the allegations, insisting that the EFCC’s accusations were misplaced.
The employee said the issue was merely a civil issue and wondered why the EFCC would get involved in such matters.
He said, “There is no fraud in this case. No one was forced into any contract. The terms of the contract were spelt out at the inception. Normally, when people want to buy properties, we give them conditions that you must pay within two to four years and if you cannot pay after making deposits, you forfeit the money.
“There are people who met the terms and were given their properties after full payment; which means that there was never any intention to defraud anyone. It is those who have failed to meet the terms and conditions that tried to get their money back and when we refused, they went to get the EFCC involved in the case.
“The EFCC will hear from our lawyers soon because this is not a criminal matter. This is how the company operates and it has branches in several countries.”