What you need to know:
- Assets Recovery Agency wants the cash deposited by Belgian national forfeited to the state.
- The money was deposited in the student’s bank account by Belgian national Marc De Mesel.
The High Court has suspended hearing of a Sh102 million money laundering case facing 21-year-old college student Felister Nyamathira Njoroge, after two women emerged yesterday claiming to be her.
In the fresh twist, the two women have instructed different lawyers to challenge the cash-freeze suit filed by the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) last November.
ARA wants the money, amounting to Sh102.5 million, which was deposited in the student’s bank account by Belgian Marc De Mesel, forfeited to the state on grounds that the source is not known.
The Belgian, who claims to be her boyfriend, and who is believed to be a cryptocurrency specialist, had indicated in the bank declaration documents that Ms Njoroge, a student at Nairobi Technical Institute, was “free to use the money to secure financial security for our future children”.
The millions were deposited in her Co-operative Bank account in four transactions between August 4 and August 6, 2021, raising suspicion.
But the real identity of Ms Njoroge has come into question following yesterday’s development, when the advocates clashed and were talking about different people.
Justice Esther Maina was treated to the confusion following appearance of the two lawyers in court, each claiming to have been instructed by Ms Njoroge to fight the case and get the money back since the account has been frozen temporarily.
The judge suspended proceedings for 90 days to allow the advocates to surrender their clients to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for confirmation of the real Ms Njoroge.
Out of the country
The mystery deepened after the two lawyers gave conflicting reports on the whereabouts of the woman they were representing court.
One lawyer, Mr Walter Owaga, informed court that Ms Njoroge left the country six months ago and she is yet to return, while the other lawyer, Mr Thomas Maosa, said his client has never travelled out of the country.
“It is unfortunate we find ourselves in this situation. The real Felister is out of the country and is heavily pregnant and she is due to give birth. We can present documents to support our position. We can present her to ARA depending on the medical advice and upon travelling back to the country,” said Mr Owaga.
He added that Ms Njoroge has never instructed any law firm to represent her and was not aware there was an advocate on record.
Mr Maosa said Ms Njoroge has never travelled out of the country. He said she appointed him alongside Prof PLO Lumumba and Mr Farady Nyangoro to defend the case.
Mr Maosa said when the case started, the advocates presented their client to the ARA to record a statement.
“We presented Felister to ARA but they opted not to take her statement. She is not out of the country. We are ready to present her again,” said Mr Maosa.
ARA’s lawyer, Mr Mohamed Adow, suggested the need for the advocates to present their respective clients who are claiming to be Ms Njoroge to the DCI for identification.
ARA suspects that the millions wired to Ms Njoroge’s account are proceeds of money laundering. The Belgian wired $229,980 on August 4, followed by 231,980 the following day. On August 6, Mr Mesel wired the money twice, $224,980 and $227,980.
The foreigner had also wired a further 108.2 million to another student — Tebby Wambuku Kago.
Documents filed in court indicate that Ms Kago is an associate of Ms Njoroge, with both receiving the Sh210 million in eight batches over two weeks.
The two women are suspected to be part of a syndicate involved in a complex money laundering scheme involving themselves and foreign nationals, ARA says in the court papers. Their bank accounts are used as a conduit of complex money laundering.
Ms Wambuku’s accounts were also frozen pending hearing of the case. The accounts are at Equity Bank with US dollars 631,071.67 and Sh37 million.
In her account opening documents, Ms Wambuku had indicated as self-employed but the transaction in the account does not reveal or depict any other transaction apart from what it received from one De Mesel Marc, a foreign National.
“Preliminary investigations have established Ms Wambuku opened the suspect account for the sole purpose of receiving the said funds which the sender indicated as gift from him,” court papers indicate
The case will be mentioned on May 16.