Kenya freezes Sh500m assets linked to NYS fraud

NAIROBI: The Government has moved to freeze and possibly seize assets of eight individuals linked to Sh791 million that authorities say was fraudulently paid out by National Youth Service (NYS).

Targeted by the Assets Recovery Agency are eight parcels of land in Nairobi and Thika, some in upmarket city areas like Muthaiga North and Rosslyn Estate under caveat of the High Court.

Authorities have also stopped dealings in a restaurant and building along Moi Avenue worth hundreds of millions of shillings and also impounded a luxury vehicle.

"That an order be and is hereby issued prohibiting the transfer, mortgage, attachment, disposal of or any other dealings with the following properties for a period of six months from the date of the preservation order," reads part of the order in a gazette notice signed by Assets Recovery Agency Director Muthoni Kimani.

The ownership of the property revolves around the eight suspects – Ben Gethi, John Kago Ndungu, Josephine, Charity Wangui Gethi (Ben's mother), Jedidah Wangari Wangui (Ben's sister), John Kago Ndung'u, Sam K Mwadime, lawyers Patrick Onyango Ogola and Martin Muthoni Gitonga.

According to the gazette notice, the properties targeted in the order include two pieces of land in Muthaiga, a house in Rosslyn Estate, Nairobi, Eden Times Restaurant located in Mercury Building along Moi Avenue and a Range Rover Vogue all valued about Sh500 million.

They cannot be transferred, mortgaged, attached or disposed of in any way for the next six months. The Range Rover Vogue must also be seized "and surrendered to the investigating officer and be detained until further orders are made by the court".

Gethi is currently facing criminal charges of stealing Sh791 million from the Department of Planning in the Ministry of Devolution.

He and 22 others, including former employees of NYS, are facing related charges including the former Devolution PS Peter Mangiti and former NYS boss Nelson Githinji.

A Nairobi court has allowed the Asset Recovery Agency to hold the assets for six months pending completion of investigations into the NYS scandal.

Gethi's mother and sister have been named as the owners of four prime plots in Muthaiga and Westlands valued at Sh159 million.

On Jamhuri Day, President Kenyatta revealed a preservation order was gazetted on Friday freezing the transfers.

The theft at NYS has dented his Government's image and led to resignation of powerful Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru on November 22.

The preservation order was obtained at the High Court under the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act in respect of eight suspects.

It was gazetted on Friday by Anti-Money Laundering Authority director Ms Kimani.

"The property will be held until all relevant legal matters are concluded," the President announced.

Gethi and Kango have since denied having done any business transaction with NYS, paid any money directly or indirectly by the institution and are not directors or shareholder of any company involved in the dealings.

The businessman said he learnt of the Sh781 million NYS scandal through the media, adding that he was summoned by Banking Fraud Investigations Unit on September 28.

Gethi honoured the summons on September 30 and agreed that in the course of business,  Josephine Irungu deposited Sh60 million to his account at Family Bank, a sum he claims to have been a loan agreement  that was to assist enable him make some investments into his business.