Court freezes assets of seven men accused of stealing Sh449m

Asset Recovery Agency claims that the assets were acquired using proceeds of crime. [iStockphoto]

Seven men accused of stealing more than Sh449 million through mobile money fraud are in more trouble after a state agency moved to seize their assets.

Asset Recovery Agency through a suit filed at the High Court claims that the assets which include vehicles and motorcycles were acquired using proceeds of crime.

“I am satisfied that there are reasonable grounds that the suspects can waste away the assets and as such the court issues an order stopping the respondents, their agents, or representatives from selling or wasting away the listed properties pending determination of the suit,” ruled Justice Esther Maina.

The seven are Gideon Kipkirui, Isaac Kipkemoi, Edwin Kipkorir, Nelson Kamau, Gideon Koech, Jonnes Kipkirui, and Gideon Kirui.

Among their frozen properties were six high-end vehicles registered in their names and five motorcycles.

Justice Maina directed the suspects to surrender the vehicles’ log books to ARA within seven days and an order to the National Transport and Safety Authority to issue a caveat against the stated vehicles.

ARA through lawyer Samuel Wambua claimed that the seven suspects registered 19,000 sim cards which they used to carry out the theft through the NCBA Bank’s Fuliza digital borrowing platform.

“Preliminary investigations have established that between May 2021 and May 2023, they registered the lines and engaged in the fraudulent scheme from the Fuliza digital borrowing platform and would subsequently switch off and discard the lines,” said Wambua.

According to ARA, the seven men accumulated over Sh449m over a period of one year before their scheme was busted by bank fraud detectives.

The agency added that the suspects would deposit large sums of money in their accounts although they did not own or run any business which raised suspicion of money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

“Once they borrowed the money, they would hurriedly transfer to another set of phone numbers owned and operated by their accomplices who would then transfer the amounts to their bank accounts,” said Wambua.

Three of the suspects, Gideon Kipkirui, Isaac Kipkemoi, and Edwin Kipkorir were among eight suspects who were charged in February with seven counts of conspiracy to commit a felony, stealing, engaging in organised crime, and being in possession of several stolen identity cards.

Justice Maina ruled that the freezing orders would last for 90 days to allow ARA to file a formal application to have the assets forfeited to the state for being proceeds of crime. She scheduled the hearing for January 22, 2024.