Woman loses Shs14m in Canadian visa scam

Ms Suzan Nabirye during the interview. PHOTO/GABRIEL BUULE

What you need to know:

  • Suzan Nabirye tells Monitor about how she burnt the midnight oil to fund a trip to Canada, only to learn that a racket based in the UK had duped her.

“In April 2019, I travelled to Saudi Arabia where I had acquired a job as a domestic worker. I had a dream of fending for my children and my mother. Since expectations were high, it felt like a dream come true and I was sure my monthly salary would help me change everything at home.

As I got used to work, I got homesick and found solace in using social media to listen to Ugandan vloggers. This gave me a feel of home. In fact, my search for Ugandan content on social media pushed me to fall in love with real time Facebook live broadcasts. I would often watch the late Jjajja Iculi [alias Isma Olaxes], who used to unleash scandals from both political and entertainment scenes.

As I searched for more Ugandan content, I landed on a platform called Mindset Vibes where the owner advised Ugandans on social life, financial discipline and hard work.

His daily briefs would encourage the audience to think beyond their places of comfort and seek better opportunities.

The person who ran the platform kept hinting about travelling abroad as a lucrative venture. He also debunked a couple of myths, including telling his viewers that it was neither expensive nor hard to find a job in Europe or other developed countries.

In 2021, Mindset Vibes started lectures about visa-related matters and how to move to Europe and other rich nations. One day, the platform owner made a video and he testified that it took him only two years to take his brother to Canada. In the video, he went on to reveal that his brother reportedly got Canadian citizenship after two years. 

I was intrigued as anyone would be. I sent him a message to inquire if it was possible for me to work in Canada. I even sent him details of a Ugandan company that I had wanted to use to travel to Canada. This was because he had earlier warned us not to use random people and asked us to deal with legally registered labour externalisation companies.

He immediately told me the said company was fake, but expressed his willingness to help me process everything at a fee through his friend. 

Deogratious Kakande, his friend, was reported to be an expert in that field.
The Mindset Vibes owner had wasted no time in launching charm offensives. He told me I would earn 10 times in one week the money I was earning in the Middle East. He asked me to address Kakande with respect. Kakande, he said, dislikes people who doubt him. I was assured everything was going to be swift. 

I was also told to furnish the Mindset Vibes owner with every decision made with Kakande. I proceeded to engage both parties, speaking to Kakande via phone and to the Mindset Vibes owner via Facebook messenger.

Kakande asked for Shs12m. I told him I could not afford his rate. He told me to pay Shs6m and later pay the balance after getting the Canadian Visa. As a sweetener, he asked me to pay the money monthly. When I reverted to Mindset Vibes, its owner told me to proceed with the proposed approach.

The first payment was done on September 9, 2021 and I paid Shs2m. I asked the Mindset Vibes owner to accept the payment for safety, but he said I pay Kakande. The Mindset Vibes owner told me since he lives in the UK, authorities would be concerned why he receives money in instalments from Saudi Arabia. He gave me a Ugandan mobile money number.

At first, I used Kakande’s mobile number and later the Mindset Vibes owner gave me a number registered in the name of Rose Nalule. I was told the number belonged to Kakande.

I sent them money in instalments until I hit Shs12m. I was then told to wait since Canada had blacklisted Uganda on account of the coronavirus pandemic. This seemed plausible. They further asked me to pay insurance money worth Shs4m. I pleaded with the Mindset Vibes owner and he halved the amount, saying he would cover the balance. I accepted and paid.

Red flags
I came back on May 10 this year as they had requested and they asked me to get a new passport and I sent it to them so that I could travel in July 2023, which I did. They instead blocked me on the phone and via WhatsApp messenger. I used one of the many numbers the Mindset Vibes owner used to contact me and he called me “stupid” while advising me to report if I had evidence that I had given either Kakande or him any money.

The Mindset Vibes owner insulted me and subjected me to lots of unthinkable abuses as he disowned me. I shared my ordeal on Facebook and all I received were abuses and threats from his accomplices.

Later, he reached out to me through his UK-based female accomplice. They both pushed for a ceasefire, promising to correct their mistakes. Actually, the Mindset Vibes owner said he abused me because he thought I was an imposter.

My efforts to get the owner of the Ugandan number registered in the name of Nalule did not yield results as a police officer told me the arrested suspect was a countryside boy. Since he seemed a stranger in my matter, he was freed on bond.”

What we know

We discovered that the telephone contact that the Mindset Vibes owner gave Ms Suzan Nabirye claiming it was registered to Mr Deogratious Kakande, who is allegedly based in Canada, is actually a UK number.

It turns out that through all the conversations between Ms Nabirye, Mr Kakande and the Mindset Vibes owner have the same time stamps. Could the accounts of Mr Kakande and the Mindset Vibes owner be run by one person?

Ms Nabirye says the nebulous Mindset Vibes owner would ask her to talk to Mr Kakande in Canada and the responses would seem coordinated. With the benefit of hindsight, she says the whole thing smacks of a well-orchestrated plan that was tailored to defraud her.

A source indicated to Monitor that the two contacts—Mindset Vibes and Mr Kakande’s—belong to a one Wanyama. We understand Mr Wanyama is a Ugandan barber who lives in East London.

Several Facebook accounts in the names of Mindset Vibes indicate that the owner lives in Hampton, London, England.

Our efforts to get a comment from the known phone contacts of Mindset Vibes were futile as the person running it blue-ticked our messages and declined all our WhatsApp calls.

Mr Luke Owoyesigire, the deputy police spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan, offered to comment only after interfacing with Ms Nabirye. We also understand the police are investigating the matter.