State seeks to recover Sh227m seized at JKIA

JKIA's Terminal 1A. July 21, 2014. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A state agency has moved to recover Sh227 million seized from a man at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. 

The Asset Recovery Agency filed the urgent suit at the High Court, seeking to have the money forfeited to the state, even as it emerged that the man, a Mr Andrew Kipkemboi, who was from Burundi, had made at least four such trips on a similar mission.

The ARA suspects the money is proceeds of crime. It has obtained an order allowing it to keep the cash for 90 days, pending conclusion of investigations.

Esther Maina issued the order stopping Brinks Global Services and Brinks Kenya Limited from claiming or transferring the money, and instead directed that the money be deposited in ARA account.

“An order is hereby issued allowing the Asset Recovery Agency to seize and preserve $2 million (Sh227.5 million) found in possession of the respondents, and which are in the custody of the Commissioner of Customs and Border Control,” ruled Justice Maina.

The agency, through lawyer Mohammed Adow, told the court the money was discovered at JKIA on February 15 and upon inquiry, it was established that the amount was being transited from Bujumbura, Burundi to Kenya and was intercepted before being reshipped to the United Kingdom.

He claimed the money consignment was found by customs officials, who while undertaking usual clearance procedures, noted an export entry for currency amounting to $2 million, with the sender indicated as Brinks Kenya Limited and receiver being Brinks Global Services UK.

Customs officials noted an export entry for currency amounting to $2 million. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

“Our investigations established that the money was intercepted at the cargo shipping point, being reshipped to London, raising suspicion of money laundering scheme executed in an effort to conceal the nature, source, location and beneficiary of the illicit funds,” said Mr Adow.

According to the lawyer, the money was illegally acquired since it was being shipped while disguised as cargo, contrary to Section 12 of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which requires all persons conveying more than Sh1 million to declare to airport officials.

ARA investigator Fredrick Musyoki, in his affidavit to support the application, swore that they recorded a statement from Kipkemboi, an agent of the company, who told them he had been transiting money from Burundi to Kenya through the same process.

“He told us he was recruited to the company by one Gikonyo Mwangi in 2014 as a branch administrator, and that he made five previous trips to Bujumbura, Burundi, to collect banknotes, all amounting to $2 million per trip,” swore Musyoki.

According to Musyoki, Kipkemboi confirmed to them that he made four trips to Bujumbura in 2021 in January, February, October and December, and returned with the same amounts to the country.

Musyoki said the agent had declared that the amount was destined to Kenya and left with it through the passenger arrival terminal, but shortly after, the money was loaded as cargo being sent to London. 

“He did not declare why the huge amount was exiting the country as cargo, which raised suspicion of money laundering scheme executed to conceal the nature, source and ownership of the funds. They indicated that the money originated from Kenya, when the real source was Burundi,” swore Musyoki.

ARA told the court that the money should be forfeited to the state for being proceeds of an international crime syndicate where suspected fraudsters avoid the normal procedures of transferring huge cash through bank transfers. Justice Maina directed that the money be held in the agency’s account at Kenya Commercial Bank until May 31 when the case will be heard.