Marek Zmys?owski, Founder Of Jovago Has Left Nigeria. Here’s Why
“Everything in Nigeria”, they say “is going to kill you”, but Marek Zmyslowski survived to tell his story.
Marek Zmys?owski’s journey and relationship with Nigeria started in 2013 when he founded Jovago, an hotel booking platform.
He also made Nigeria his home and started other ventures such as Hotelonline.co, an hos hospitality software company. Jumia travels as Jovago was later known quickly became popular on its way to becoming one of the biggest booking sites in the country.
In a post on Medium, he said it all started when his assets were seized and his bank accounts frozen by the Nigerian police.
“it was done by an order issued by Nigerian police officers, corrupted by my local business partners that decided to get rid of me. Like in a shitty Hollywood B movie, I was quickly given an offer. A shady individual told me that all my problems will go away, all I need to do is to send a symbolic sum of a couple of hundred thousand dollars to a specific bank account.”
So what did he do, he sued the Nigerian Police, something unheard of in this clime. And yes, you can sue the police. And amazingly, he won.
He continued: “What’s even more amazing, I won. That was one of the “faith in humanity restored” moments. I’m probably the only foreigner in the history of Nigeria to sue its police and win. And to be still alive. The court ruled illegality of all the actions by police and even set a symbolic sum of ten thousand dollars to cover my “moral damages”. The police haven’t paid yet and I’m still trying to figure out who I should call for help to get my “win money”.
While he came out of it all safe and sound, the experience left him with the need to get his assets and businesses out of Nigeria.
“It could have been much, much worse. The experience made me, however, reach my threshold. It showed me how fragile your position, and how illusory your sense of safety can sometimes be. Especially when you live and work in countries with a struggling democracy and economy. I’ve decided that I need to move my assets, tax residency, or even citizenship to a country, where abuses like that can’t happen, where the law is respected and corruption is marginal.” He said.
After leaving Nigeria, he isn’t returning to his own country and neither is he going to the West, or even China or Russia.
So, what is next for the serial entrepreneur?
For starters, he is getting a second passport.
“I needed a safe harbor, a plan B. And on top of it, having 2 passports is kinda cool.
I had always thought that getting second citizenship by paying money can only be obtained in some shady ways and that it must be extremely expensive. And by extremely, I mean millions of dollars. What I found out was something totally different. A lot has changed in the last couple decades. Many governments started treating their citizenship as a commodity. The first country that offered its passport for sale was Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1984.
Today already over a dozen nations offer citizenship?—?including five Caribbean island-states, Vanuatu, Jordan and, within the EU, Austria, Cyprus, and Malta. Even the Dalai Lama got himself a passport from Dominica. Programs have by far become more affordable. Citizenship of Vanuatu, a beautiful, peaceful republic on a South Pacific Island, starts from $ 70k and you can even pay in Bitcoin.
Let’s be honest, which country wouldn’t want to invite more lawyers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and other successful experts in their fields to their land, so they invest and pay their taxes there?
There is however a vetting process that keeps the crooked types out, your finances need to be legit and you even have to go through a health check. No place for sick people in the paradise.
There are many advisory companies licensed by those governments that manage the whole application and investment process. I went with the one that had the coolest looking website (obviously) and that seemed most professional out of the few I spoke to. They had also been on the market for more than 8 years already. In the startup world that’s almost like an eternity.”
He still has to choose a country though. He has an advice on how to pick the right country.
“The hardest part of the whole process was choosing the country to get the passport of. You need to take into account their geography, as you will want to visit it from time to time and who knows, maybe make it your base. What’s crucial is their tax system, quality of education, if you’re planning kids in the near future, and the strength of the passport.
My Polish one allows me to travel freely in Europe but I wouldn’t mind having to apply for fewer visas when traveling to Asia, Africa, the Latino countries, and the great “Merica”, of course.”
So he choose a Caribbean Country.
“I fell in love with their zero income and inheritance tax.” He said.
“I was allowed to keep my Polish passport and have dual citizenship. The island itself is just a stone throw away from the Dominican Republic, where all of my girlfriend’s family lives. And most importantly, this country’s significant part of revenue comes from foreign investors, offshore banking and payment processing companies.
The government has a great opinion among international entrepreneurs and the likelihood of becoming a victim of criminals, as it happened to me in Nigeria, was significantly lower. Instead of buying a property (minimum of $ 260k investment) I went for a cash donation to the government fund, which was less than half that price. It was much cheaper, but I will never see that money again. With the Real Estate option, I could sell it after 5 years and hope for a nice ROI.
We wish him the best of luck.