The identity of a college student at the centre of an alleged Sh102 million money-laundering scheme will now be unravelled by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) after court ordered detectives to investigate two women who are claiming ownership of the funds.
Justice Esther Maina yesterday directed the lawyers representing the two women to surrender them at the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) offices within 14 days so that they be escorted to the DCI for identification.
The judge called the DCI into the cash-freeze suit filed by ARA after the identity of the student, Ms Felister Nyamathira Njoroge, came into question.
Two teams of advocates appeared in court and clashed over representation of the 21-year-old student, who studies at Nairobi Technical Institute, according to ARA.
In their arguments in court, the lawyers were talking about different people, prompting court to order investigations on identity of the woman, who received the money from Belgian Cryptocurrency investor Merc De Mesel.
He claims to be her lover and the money at issue was a gift.
The judge directed each legal team to surrender its client to the state agency so that the cash-freeze suit filed by ARA can be determined soon.
Case proceedings have been delayed by the identity puzzle. “We have two people claiming to be Felister Nyamathira. They need to be authenticated by the DCI so that we know who the real Felister is.
Lawyers Walter Owaga and Farady Nyangoro have two different clients and both are Felisters.
The lawyers are directed to take their clients to ARA for processing on a date they will agree on within two weeks from now,” said Justice Maina.
The judge directed the parties to return to court on November 3 to confirm the outcome of the investigations. When issuing the directives, Justice Maina noted that the two teams of lawyers had not complied with an earlier order that had required them to surrender their clients to the DCI for confirmation of the real Ms Njoroge.
One team led by lawyer Nyangoro told court Ms Njoroge was ready to have her fingerprints taken by the DCI for investigations.
“She was in our chambers two weeks ago and we have liaised with an inspector (of police) for her fingerprints to be taken. She was under fear, but we got assurance for her and now she is ready for the fingerprints to be taken,” said Mr Nyangoro.
The other team of lawyers, led by Mr Owaga, said Ms Njoroge was outside the country and has a newborn.
“Our client is out of the country and has a child who has no passport. She is fearing for her personal security,” said Mr Owaga.
The two women have instructed different lawyers to challenge the cash-freeze suit filed by ARA last November.
ARA obtained an order freezing the accounts, pending conclusion of investigations into the source of the funds.
Proceeds of crime
The funds at issue are presumed to be proceeds of crime and ARA has since said it will not release the money until Ms Njoroge explains how she acquired the wealth.
She, however, says it was a gift from the Belgian lover. The Belgian—believed to be a cryptocurrency specialist—had indicated in bank declaration documents that Ms Njoroge was “free to use the money to secure financial security for our future children”.
ARA wants the money, amounting to Sh102.5 million, forfeited to the state on the grounds that the source is not known.