South Sudan minister faults US, UK over bank woes
By Kamau Muthoni
| September 14th 2021
A South Sudan minister whose accounts were frozen by Kenya’s anti-corruption court over suspected illicit money has now alleged arm-twisting tactics by the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
After Justice James Wakiaga froze Martin Elia Lomuro’s bank accounts over suspicion that he was involved in money laundering, he now claims that Kenya caved in to USA and UK’s pressure aimed at shaming President Salva Kiir’s government.
USA sanctioned Elia, who is South Sudan’s minister for Cabinet Affairs, alongside his defense counterpart Manyang Juuk after linking them to violence in Africa’s youngest country in 2019.
“I verily believe that the applicant (Asset Recovery Agency) herein is cooperating with the said US Department of Treasury as well as the national crime agency in the United Kingdom to discredit my image and that of the Republic of South Sudan through false, malicious and unsubstantiated allegations,” Elia said.
Elia is also Lainya County’s Member of Parliament.
Asset Recovery Agency says that Elia’s account received more than Sh122 million while he withdrew Sh109 million, leaving the account with at least Sh13 million. The transactions were in a bank account held in the name of Rejah Kedi Ladu Kenyi. Reja is his wife.
Elia said his tribulations with the US are not just about the freeze orders. He claims a bank in Kenya closed his US dollars account in January, last year, and the UK had also frozen in accounts earlier in 2019.
According to him, in December 2020, he wired at least Sh800,000 in dollars to Nigeria to buy gifts but the transaction was blocked. To date, he says, he has never recovered the money.
At the same time, Elia claims that he again wired US$20,000 (approximately Sh2 million) to this daughter Nyarju Lemi Lomuro in Ghana through her friend, the Rev Dr. Elizabeth Ann King, and that too was blocked.
He states that despite the money being debited, it was never credited.
Elia waves a flag of diplomatic immunity, arguing that Kenya cannot sanction him, instead, he enjoys privileges as a cabinet minister.
According to him, the essence of freezing his accounts is to whittle down Kiir’s influence for a regime change. “I have become a victim of these illegal sanctions because of our opposition to the agenda aimed at changing the regime in South Sudan,” he claims
“I have not stolen or misappropriated any public funds in South Sudan or any other country in the 15 years that I have served as a constitutional post holder in the Republic of South Sudan. I have not laundered any money or have been involved in illicit financial activities,” he says.
The minister says his wife has been ill and needed to stay in Kenya alongside their children for constant checkups, thus prompting him to open the bank account.
He argues that the contested money is derived from his salary and rental houses in South Sudan.
Rejah has also sworn an affidavit, arguing that she relies on the account that has been frozen for her subsistence in Kenya. According to her, she does not have any gainful employment in Kenya.
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