Govt Official Splashed Hundreds of Millions on Houses After Withdrawal of Old Currency Notes

June 24, 2021

The move to withdraw old banknotes from circulation to nab corrupt individuals appears to have been a success, at least in the case of a deputy director at the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA).

Margaret Wanja Muthui who is the Deputy Director of Supply Chain Management at KERRA reportedly splashed huge amounts of money on 35 apartments in the four months to September 2019 when the govt withdrew the old Sh1,000 banknote to tackle corruption.

According to the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), the apartments worth Sh374.5 million and Sh93.4 million in bank accounts linked to Margaret Wanja Muthui were proceeds of crime and illicit deals such as kickbacks from road contractors.

In a petition certified as urgent, ARA successfully applied to a Nairobi court to freeze the assets and bank accounts associated with Margaret Wanja Muthui.

ARA noted that her salary cannot support the purchase of the multimillion-shilling properties within weeks.

Others who were affected by the order issued on Tuesday are Muthui’s alleged conduits who she worked alongside to launder money.

The agency says Muthui used Esther Wagio Njunge, Lighthouse Trading Company, Grace Ndiritu, Mercy Nyambura and Cynthia Nyambura who are her accomplices.

The frozen Sh93.4m is held in three accounts at Co-operative Bank; one account with Sh74.7 million belongs to Ms Wagio. Another account holds Sh13.9 million in the name of Ms Muthui and Sh4.8 million under the name of Light House Trading Company.

In court documents, ARA says Muthui bought 11 apartments in Kileleshwa for Sh264 million in cash between July and September 24, 2019.

She also splashed another Sh15 million on 12 units in a Ruaka flat in June 2019, days after the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) set September 30, 2019 deadline for converting the old Sh1,000 note into new ones.

Muthui allegedly purchased the apartments herself or through proxies and a company whose directors were mostly her relatives or proxies.

Muthui is also alleged to have acquired a house in Nairobi and land in Riruta, Dagoretti and registered them in the names of other persons to conceal the source of the funds.

Investigations have revealed that Ms Wagio bought the land in Dagoretti on December 18, 2020 for Sh25 million from Ms Rosemary Wanjiku Gathuku.

A residential house in Karen, known as Collingham Gardens Residence & Club, was purchased for Sh55 million on August 1, 2016.

ARA said it was tipped that the respondents acquired funds and assets through money laundering, and which are believed to be proceeds of crime.

While issuing the freeze orders,  Justice James Wakiaga prohibited the suspects from collecting any rental income from the property in question.

Rent should be deposited in the Asset Recovery Agency account pending hearing and determination of the intended forfeiture case.

Justice Wakiaga also ordered the chief lands registrar to register caveats against each of the Sh374.5 million apartments and home in a move aimed at stopping their transfer or sale.

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