By Paul Ogemba, 18 November 2023: The Standard
A former senior manager at Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) has lost property worth Sh500 million acquired through corruption.
Justice Esther Maina ordered Margaret Wanja Muthui and her associates to forfeit the property to the state after finding that she enriched herself through proceeds of crime and used proxies to register them.
“She cannot be allowed to benefit from property she acquired through corruption. If indeed she was capable of purchasing the property, why then did she look for mama mbogas (vegetable sellers) from Githurai to pose as the purchasers?” said Justice Maina.
Among the property Muthui was ordered to forfeit to the state are 11 apartments in Kileleshwa, a townhouse at Collingham Gardens in Nairobi, 24 apartments in Ruaka, a piece of land in Ruaka, a plot in Dagoretti and Sh94 million in her accounts.
Justice Maina ruled that the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Muthui corruptly acquired millions of shillings when she served as deputy director of supply chain management at the road’s authority.
The judge found that ARA had proved that Muthui had stashed old Sh1,000 notes in her house and when the government declared a phase-out of the currency in 2019, she had nowhere to hide them and embarked on massive buying of property to clear the money.
In order to conceal her identity, the former Kura manager recruited Esther Wagio Njunge, Grace Ndiritu, Mercy Nyambura and Cynthia Nyambura as her proxies and named them as beneficiaries and registered owners of the property.
“It was worth noting that some of the listed beneficiaries disowned being owners of the property since they were mere small scale traders who were asked to pose as buyers but knew nothing about the source of the funds,” ruled Maina.
The Judge further declared that any rental income, benefit and profit accruing from the 11 Signature Apartments in Kileleshwa owned by Muthui and the 24 Taraji Residence apartments in Ruaka are proceeds of crime that should be remitted to the state.
ARA in its suit accused the former KeRRA manager of being the architect of the corruption scandal where she bought the property and registered them in the names of her associates to conceal her identity.
According to ARA, investigations established that Muthui paid Sh264 million in cash for 11 apartments in Kileleshwa within a period of three months during the demonetisation of the old Sh1,000 notes in 2019 so as to launder the illegitimately obtained cash.
The agency said they started investigating Muthui and her associates when they received information that she had acquired massive wealth within a short period of time through a scheme of money laundering and corruption.
According to ARA, Muthui had been collecting monthly rent ranging from Sh116,000 to Sh200,000 from each of the 11 apartments in Kileleshwa which the court said must be forfeited to the state.
The agency claimed that even after giving the named persons a chance to explain the source of their wealth, they did not give a satisfactory explanation which left no doubt that the cash in the accounts and the assets are proceeds of crime.
After analysing Muthui’s accounts, the court was convinced that she received suspicious funds through a scheme of money laundering which are believed to be proceeds of crime and liable for forfeiture to the state.