The High Court has lifted orders freezing accounts held by South Sudan Cabinet Minister Martin Elia Lomuro after an out-of-court settlement with the Assets Recovery Agency.
Justice James Wakiaga accepted the ARA’s application to withdraw the suit it had filed over suspected money laundering. The Nation has learned that the ARA accepted Mr Lomuro’s explanation on the source of millions of shillings found in his accounts.
While the two accounts had a Sh13.2 million balance at the time, the ARA had tracked several transactions totalling over Sh200 million, some of which were done in dollars.
Mr Lomuro had claimed that ARA’s move was a result of pressure from the US and UK governments, which the minister insists are allegedly bent on tainting the administration of South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
The US in 2019 sanctioned Mr Lomuro alongside another minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, for allegedly scuttling peace talks between President Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, fuelling more conflict in South Sudan.
The ARA said it flagged Mr Lomuro’s accounts after they received Sh122 million, most of which was withdrawn.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the funds held by the respondent in the specified bank account are direct benefits, profits and or proceeds of crime obtained from a complex money-laundering scheme and are liable to be forfeited to the state under the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act. The preliminary analysis of the bank statement held in the name of the respondent (Mr Lomuro) does not demonstrate a consistent source of funds which could reasonably said to be salary,” the ARA said in its application.
Mr Lomuro withdrew Sh109 million shortly after receiving Sh122 million, which caught ARA’s attention. “I have not stolen or misappropriated any public funds in South Sudan or any other country in the 15 years that I have served as a constitutional post holder in the Republic of South Sudan,” Mr Lomuro said in his affidavit.
The accounts, Mr Lomuro argued, were opened to cater for his wife’s medical bills and other expenses for the duration of his family’s stay in Nairobi. Court papers indicate that Mr Lomuro had two accounts, one for dollar transactions.
He shut down the dollar account in December, 2019. ARA had studied transactions on Mr Lomuro’s accounts dating back to 2017.