Kenya is now a notable regional hub for illegal fake currency and gold smuggling.
Fraudsters now use corruption and violence as well as financial levers to profit from and control the trade, mainly because of its high returns and low-risk nature.
The business popularly known as “wash wash” among young Kenyans is commonly known as investment fraud.
These are deceptive practices that scammers use to lure unsuspecting victims to invest in their schemes.
Commonly referred to in Kenya as “wash wash guys” they present false and misleading information or fictitious opportunities and they may ask a victim to invest in precious metals such as gold and diamonds, stocks, bonds, notes, commodities, currency, or even real estate.
Kenyans from all walks of life have found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy after being duped to join the wash wash criminal enterprise.
This has prompted authorities to warn of a possible takeover of Parliament by these shrewd operatives.
“We will end up with up to 40 per cent holders of elective office being well-known wash-wash dealers. Those are the ones who are hiring crowds. In some constituencies, the people we are profiling and investigating, people on (Directorate of Criminal Investigations Director George) Kinoti’s radar, are the leading candidates,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told a recent public forum on elections.
In recent years detectives have arrested suspects over the wash-wash business and fake gold merchants.
Foreigners have fallen victim to a fake gold scam which has led to loss of millions of shillings.
In September this year, an Indian investor lost Sh200 million to fake gold dealers who packed stones for him and asked him to wait for his consignment back home.
Back in December five suspects were arrested for allegedly defrauding a Koren national Sh2.9 million in a fake gold scam.
The suspects were arrested by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Serious Crimes Unit following a complaint by the victim identified as Song Sung.
Song told detectives that he was initially shown some well-packed bars that he was made to believe were genuine gold at a company in Karen.
In November 2021, he recounted to the court how businessman Paul Kobia and 13 others accused of Sh14 million gold scams lured him to a house on Riverside Drive, Nairobi.
Italian Antonio Cianci, who is a director of a Dubai-based company known as Iron & Steel DMCC, told Milimani senior resident magistrate Zainabu Abdul that the accused persons claimed the house had pure gold for sale.
Cianci said that on April 25, 2019, he lost Sh14 million after being duped that he had bought genuine gold worth $1,198,000.
The court heard that the accused persons obtained the money by falsely pretending they had genuine gold for sale.
Kobia is charged alongside his 13 employees. They are alleged to have conspired to defraud Cianci Director of Iron and Steel DMCC from Arab Emirates US dollars 14,000 (Sh14 million) by displaying metal boxes purporting them to be genuine gold bars.