Court allows State to take over Sh48.5 Lavington house to recover siphoned youths' fund money

Suspended Youth Fund CEO Catherine Namuye when she appeared before the National Assembly Public Investment Committee at Parliament. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

A court has allowed the seizure of a Sh48.5 million apartment in Lavington, Nairobi.

The luxurious Duchess Park apartment along Hatheru Road, belongs to Ngamau Mukuria, who is believed to have been a beneficiary of money siphoned from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF).

Anti-Corruption Court judge Hedwig Ong’udi also allowed the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) to recover Sh8 million that Mr Ngamau had allegedly loaned to businessman Ezekiel Owuor.

Once Mr Owuor pays back the amount, the court ruled, he should not be criminally pursued.

The Sh48.5 million that ARA seeks to recover is only a third of Sh180 million that was looted from YEDF. The judge observed that although she allowed the recovery, that did not mean that those implicated, among them suspended YEDF chief executive officer Catherine Namuye, who died last year, and Mukuria, would not face criminal charges.

“Simply put civil forfeiture proceedings are not subject to presumption of innocence, which is a criminal law phenomenon. The second respondent (Owuor) will pay this money to the applicant (ARA) and will be released from any liability in respect of the money he received from first respondent (Quorandum Limited),” ruled Justice Ong’udi.

Investigations by the State revealed a trail of illicit movement of cash from the fund to individuals’ bank accounts. They roped in Standard Chartered, Co-operative, Barclays and Chase banks.

Computer systems

One of the items in the YEDF 2014-2015 budget that Ms Namuye presented to the board for approval was acquisition of computer systems.

Court records show that the board approved Sh192 million on August 8, 2014.

On January 20, 2015, the board halted the project as the agency had a cash flow problem. The board also expressed concern that YEDF did not have experts to run the system and the powers to recruit the needed staff. They agreed that the money be deposited in Chase Bank to earn interest.

Ong’udi heard that despite this, Namuye went ahead to hire Quorandum to design two plans for the ICT project at a cost of Sh180 million.

On February 11, 2015, Namuye instructed Chase Bank’s director in charge of business development to transfer the amount to Ngamau’s company account in two tranches, Sh115 million and Sh65 million.

The bank declined to send the money, indicating her letters did not have two signatories, as was required.

It also raised the red flag that the Quorandum bank account had only Sh3,000 and was largely dormant and there was no proof of any transaction to justify a large payment.

On February 17, Namuye and Bruce Odhiambo, the then board chairman, wrote to Chase Bank’s general manager, informing him that the signatories of the fund’s account had been changed.

The money trail shows that five days after the second letter, Sh115 million was transferred to Quorandum’s account. In April, Namuye again instructed Chase Bank to transfer Sh65 million.

Quorandum’s account was opened in September 2014 and at the time it received the money, it had Sh571.

The Standard
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