The High Court has allowed the government to confiscate a Sh102 million love gift sent to 23-year-old student Felista Nyamathira Njoroge by her billionaire boyfriend abroad.
In a judgment handed down by Esther Maina on Thursday 25 May 2023, the Kenyan government was allowed to keep the money held in two co-operative bank accounts belonging to Nyamathira after it was established that the gift was the product of money laundering.
The judge ordered the confiscation of the funds because the source of the money from billionaire Marc De Mesel, a Belgian YouTube crypto personality, had not been explained and disclosed.
In a landmark judgement, Justice Maina said the philanthropist had been given the opportunity to explain how he earned his money, which he lavishes on young women around the world, but failed to do so.
Justice Maina said in the absence of the explanation, the state was benefiting from the money secretly wired into the country by the overseas crypto-personality.
While granting the application by the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) to declare the funds as proceeds of crime, Maina said the evidence adduced in court by both the state and the two lovers showed that there was obvious money laundering.
"I have analysed and gone through the evidence tendered by the boyfriend and it did not show the source of the funds that were transferred to the Kenyan girlfriend," Judge Maina ruled.
She added that in the absence of disclosure of the source of the funds, the likely conclusion is that the source of the money is money laundering.
As a result, she said, the court has no option but to order that the money in the two bank accounts be forfeited to the state.
Nyamathira hit the headlines in 2021 when she revealed that DCI detectives had intercepted a gift of money sent to her by a Belgian lover.
The woman complained of mistreatment at the hands of the State Criminal Investigation Department for withholding the Sh102 million sent to her for her personal use.
Evidence presented in court showed that the money was paid into a Co-operative Bank account in four transactions between 4 and 6 August 2021, raising suspicions that the agency was owned by the said Nyamathira. The recipient of the money has remained a mystery, despite a legal action to recover the money.
The tycoon Belgian businessman was also in the spotlight after he also transferred Sh257 million to three other Kenyan women - Tabby Wambuku Kago (Sh108 million), Jane Wangui Kago (Sh49 million), Serah Wambui (Sh100 million).
The Belgian transferred $229,980 on 4 August, followed by $231,980 the next day. On 6 August, Mesel transferred the money twice, $224,980 and $227,980. The account is in the name of Felister Nyamathira Njoroge.
In the transaction declaration documents, the Belgian national has since told the court that Nyamathira, a student at the Nairobi Technical Institute, was "free to use the money to ensure financial security for our future children" and that he gave the money to the woman as a gift of love.
However, the money has been frozen amid suspicions over the source of the cryptocurrency trader's millions, pending the outcome of the confiscation case. The ARA alleged that the Belgian national and Nyamathira could be involved in an international money laundering scheme.
A month after the ARA filed the recovery suit, the real identity of the woman who was sent the cash came into question on 26 January 2022 after two sets of lawyers clashed in court and were talking about different people.
In her ruling, the judge declined to address the issue of Nyamathira's legal representation.