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Two lawyers, traders and a Sh132m identity theft suit

A court in Nakuru says the end of love and emotional attachment in a marriage is reason enough to grant divorce.

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On August 21, 2023 Gilford Gitonga Ngurwe woke up to the news that his bank account was on the verge of being attached by two Kakamega-based law firms seeking to recover Sh132.7 million in settlement of a construction contract.

Court papers indicated that Mr Ngurwe entered into a contract with Jackson Riziki Ambwera in which the latter was to put up six bungalows in Kakamega and receive Sh132.7 million as payment.

They stated that Mr Ngurwe refused to pay up after the houses were completed, and that Mr Ambwera sued him through K.N. Wesutsa & Company Advocates to recover the funds.

Further, that Mr Ngurwe hired WW & Associates Advocates to enter into an out-of-court deal which birthed a court order directing Absa Bank to empty his bank accounts.

The attachment order was to see Sh3 million paid to WW & Associates Advocates for representing Mr Ngurwe, with the balance going to K.N. Wesutsa & Company Advocates in a bid to offset the alleged Sh132.7 million debt.

On face value, the documents looked like an open and shut case that was settled without a protracted trial with numerous witnesses and scrutiny of papers as is with other contractual disputes that spill over to the courts.

But that series of events has become the centre of a Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) probe that, if proven, could lift the lid on a sophisticated identity theft syndicate tricking the justice and banking systems into fleecing clueless victims millions of shillings. The DCI is now investigating the matter, and seeks to establish whether someone may have fraudulently obtained Mr Ngurwe’s private bank details and copies of his identification documents to lodge a bogus case, which would then yield massive pay of up to Sh132.7 million.

Detectives have already collected copies of the court pleadings and proceedings from the Kakamega High Court, and are expected to record statements from various individuals whose names have appeared in the court case.

The claim, by Mr Ngurwe, is that he does not have any business interests in Kakamega and that a group of fraudsters tailored a court case based on a bogus construction contract, and secretly hired a lawyer for him specifically to yield and grant access to his bank account.

Mr Ngurwe insists that he does not know Mr Ambwera, and has never hired him, or anyone else, to construct houses in Kakamega.

“The defendant (Mr Ngurwe) avers that he does not own any property within the county of Kakamega and further, there is no property declared to be his and puts the plaintiff (Mr Ambwera) to strict proof to the contrary,” Mr Ngurwe said in a draft defence statement filed in court when seeking to quash the court order directing for payments from his bank account.

Mr Ngurwe adds that his signature was forged in the out-of-court settlement that led to issuing a court order to drain his bank account.

He further denies knowing or ever hiring Polyne Joy Wanyonyi of WW & Associates Advocates to represent him in any matter, insisting that all his legal affairs are handled by Mombasa-based Wandai Matheka & Company Advocates.

Mr Wanyonyi has questioned how Mr Ambwera and K.N. Wesutsa knew exactly how much money was in his bank account, something that the DCI is now also investigating.

In court, Ms Wanyonyi insisted that Mr Ngurwe walked into her office on August 7, 2023 seeking assistance with settling the case filed by Mr Ambwera.

She added that Mr Ngurwe signed a document giving her authority to act on his behalf, before leaving copies of his identity card and a passport photo.

The authority to act, Ms Wanyonyi said, was signed on account of the huge amounts of money involved, and that the parties agreed on a Sh3 million fee for the legal services.

“The defendant walked into my office on the 7th day of August 2023 seeking my legal services with regard to this suit where he was the defendant and he made it known to me that he would not be contesting the claim but required help to negotiate on a reduced figure prompting me to engage the plaintiff’s counsel, that is M/s K.N. Wesutsa & Company Advocates resulting in the consent order…,” Ms Wanyonyi said in an affidavit.

Mr Ngurwe has also filed complaints against K.N. Wesutsa Advocates and WW & Associates Advocates, alluding to alleged collusion to steal money from his bank accounts.

“I am shocked that a suit was filed and even an order entered without having been served or participating in the suit to defend myself. I am writing to you to make an official complaint against the advocates in the suit mentioned therein. I am kindly requesting for you to get answers as to how a suit can be filed and further an order be issued to have my money removed from my account without even participating in the suit and without instructing the said advocates,” Mr Ngurwe says in his complaint to the LSK.

Ms Wanyonyi has stuck to her guns insisting that Mr Ngurwe walked into her office and requested legal services.

“That from the foregoing, it would be ludicrous for M/s Wandai Matheka & Company Advocates to accuse me of professional misconduct, yet I was only acting as instructed by my client’s instruction,” Ms Wanyonyi added. “I am the defendant. I can see Ms Wanyonyi, I do not know her,” Mr Ngurwe told Justice Sophie Chirchir on August 30, 2023 when the matter came up for mention of the Mombasa businessman’s application that sought to stop the emptying of his bank account.

Mr Ngurwe later told the court that the easiest way for Ms Wanyonyi to prove that he indeed hired her would be to file any evidence of communication between the two of them. She did not provide any evidence of calls, text messages or emails.

The High Court dismissed Mr Ambwera’s application on December 22, 2023 on grounds that the businessman had failed to file any evidence that his signature was forged on the consent to drain his account.

He has since challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal.

In a draft defence that Mr Ngurwe is seeking to use to challenge the court order, he claims that Mr Ambwera is just a pawn used by other individuals to rob his account of millions.

“The transaction forming the basis of this claim was originated by Jackson Riziki Ambwera, William John Barasa and Naomi Achando with the sole intention of defrauding the defendant in concert with the plaintiff herein.

“No agreement was signed by the defendant (Mr Ngurwe) and the monies claimed cannot, perforce, be due or owing; the purported work done relates to illegal transactions…,” Mr Ngurwe said in court papers.

Mr Ngurwe had intended to overturn the consent and the resulting court order. In the counterclaim, he is seeking a refund of any money that will be taken from his bank account, and financial compensation for the alleged fraud in any amount that the court will deem fit.