State seizes 35 houses, Sh95m from ex-Kerra staff Margaret Wanja Muthui in graft case

Former Kenya Rural Roads Authority employee Margaret Muthui was ordered to forfeit 35 houses and Sh95 million cash to the State.

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What you need to know:

  • President Ruto had accused the roads agency employee of using courts to block her transfer.
  • High Court agrees with Assets Recovery Agency that properties were proceeds of crime.

A former Kenya Rural Road Authority (KeRRA) employee who was singled out by President William Ruto in August for thwarting attempts to transfer her has lost 35 apartments that she purchased in cash and more than Sh95 million in bank accounts.

Ms Margaret Wanja Muthui, a former deputy director at the roads agency, was accused by President Ruto of using the courts to block her transfer from the Roads ministry.

The woman was first thrust into the limelight in 2019 when she successfully petitioned the court to reverse her deployment from her plum job at the road agency to the office of Performance Management and Coordination under the Presidency.

At the time, she argued that she had risen over the years to become the senior procurement officer at KeRRA and was now being moved to an office where she had no expertise. She said that she was being transferred for questioning a tender she felt had been overpriced by Sh1 billion.

Ms Muthui and her associates forfeited the 11 apartments in Kileleshwa that she purchased for Sh264 million in cash between July and September 24, 2019 and a building in Ruaka with 12 units, which the High Court said she acquired through proxies during the demonitisation process carried out by the Central Bank of Kenya in 2019.

She was dealt another blow after Justice Esther Maina directed that money in three banks accounts and another 12 units she acquired in Ruaka in June 2019 for 15 million each, be forfeited to the State. The judge agreed with the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) that the properties were proceeds of crime.

Also forfeited to the State are a house in Nairobi and a land in Riruta, Dagoretti, which were registered in the names of other persons. The house, known as Collingham Gardens in Nairobi, was purchased for Sh55 million on August 1, 2016, while the land in Riruta was purchased by Esther Wagio Njung’e, on December 18, 2020 for Sh25 million.

One of the proxies is a grocery seller from Githurai. The judge wondered why a Mama Mboga would leave Githurai to purchase an apartment on behalf of a person she has never met.

Those used in the scheme were Ms Njung’e, a director of Lighhouse Trading Company, Ms Grace Nyambura Ndiritu, the green grocer, Ms Mercy Wambui Nyambura, a post-graduate student and who was yet to be employed, and Cynthia Wanjiku Nyambura, who had just graduated from Moi University.

The court also dismissed claims by businessman Abdulwalli Shariff Ahmed, who claimed that the houses were purchased on his behalf and his companies. Justice Maina said that it was clear from the evidence that the properties do not belong to any of the persons in whose names they registered.

“It is my finding that the interested party (Mr Ahmed) did not offer any explanation as to the source of the funds used to acquire the properties,” Justice Maina said. She added that Mr Ahmed did not offer a satisfactory explanation for using persons he had never met to purchase the properties on his behalf and why he did not register them in his names or companies.

“These (the respondents) are gullible parties who would not ask questions and the purpose of using them was to disguise the real owners of the properties,” the judge said.

Justice Maina said that there was a direct link between Ms Njung’e, her company (Lighthouse Trading) and Ms Muthui. She noted that there was evidence that Ms Njung’e and Ms Muthui were introduced by Mr Ephantus Kimotho Kimani, alleged to be an uncle to Grace, Mercy and Cynthia.

The court also directed that the rent generated from the houses, which has been frozen since 2021, be forfeited to the State.

The cash forfeited includes Sh74.7 million in a fixed deposit account at Co-operative Bank of Kenya in the name of Ms Njung’e, Sh13.9 in a fixed deposit account in the same bank in the name of Ms Muthui and Sh6.7 million in the same bank held in the name of Lighthouse Trading.

Ms Muthui had told the court that she had generated substantial income over the years from salaries and allowances that she earned from her employers. She also said she had businesses with several companies, among them Fresh Choice Limited, Lavington Security and Urbanis Africa.

ARA said it was tipped off that Ms Muthui and her proxies had acquired assets through funds believed to be proceeds of crime.