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Sh124m fraud case: Inside battle to extradite Imraan Juma to the US

 A fugitive Abdulrahman Imraan Juma who is wanted in the United States of America for offences related to fraud, money laundering and theft talks to his lawyer Fred Wandungi at a Milimani court on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Abdulrahman Imraan Juma stares at the Gigiri Police Station cell grills as he counts the hours pass. This has been his home as he fights a bid by the government to fly him to the United States to face fraud charges.

At 29, Juma hangs on to hope that the High Court will agree with him that he should not be flown to the US to face charges relating to a more than Sh124 million fraud syndicate that involved Instagram flossing Nigerian Hushpuppi.

Hushpuppi's real name is Ramon Abass. Others claimed to have been involved in the wire fraud are Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, Yusuf Adenkika Anifowoshe, Rukayat Monturaya Fashola, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agba Biaka.

He lost his bid to remain and be tried in Kenya before the magistrate's court, but he cannot be extradited just yet, since he immediately appealed the lower court's verdict before Justice Daniel Ogembo.

Juma's appeal revolves around his identity, whether there is enough evidence to have him tried in the US and if he will get a fair hearing.

In the appeal, he claims that he was not the person in the picture sent by the US authorities, who are seeking to have a grip on him in order to face trial over an alleged crime that happened between 2019 and 2020.

At the same time, Juma argues that he will not get a fair hearing should he be tried in the US and faults the lower court for ordering him to file written submissions.

He also claims that Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji acted as an investigator adding that this rendered the process to be unconstitutional.

In the case, Haji is represented by his Senior Assistant DPP Vincent Monda, Njoki Kihara and Magdalene Nduati.

In his reply, Haji argues that US authorities investigated the syndicate and singled Juma out. He argued that Juma's identity cannot be mistaken as the US provided a photograph of him in the extradition request.

"It is not correct to state that the Director of Public Prosecutions was the investigator and at all material times in court, it was disclosed through the evidential bundle that the investigations were done by the US, who are in possession of all the evidence. Hence, there was no contravention of the rules of natural justice. The identity of the appellant was properly conducted, his photograph was provided and there is no material evidence placed before to show that the identity of the fugitive is in question," replied Haji.

On May 7, 2021, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wrote to Kenya seeking assistance to have Juma flown to the US to face charges following the Federal Bureau of Investigations on an international fraud scheme.

In the request before the court, Juma is alleged to have defrauded a Qatari businessman with USD 1.24 million (Sh124 million). Juma was born on March 24, 1993, in Kajiado, Kenya. He is said to have been living in Lavington.

FBI connected the dots through a forensic examination of an iPhone and Hushpuppi's online accounts and bank records. In court, the DPP argued that there was evidence that they did not intend to loan the victim the Sh1.8 billion he needed.

Paying taxes

Instead, they made him wire money in the belief that they were paying taxes and fees for the money to be released to him.

The USA District Court in Central California indicted five persons.

"The respondent complied with the relevant provisions and precedents set by courts of superior jurisdiction on the manner in which extradition proceeded should be conducted. All the offences the applicant/appellant was indicted on by the United States District Court for the Central District of California including money laundering extraditable offences," argues Haji.

The court heard that on November 19, 2019, the victim and his financial advisor landed in Kenya. The purpose of the travel, according to him, was to meet with Juma. In the meeting, there was another man named Rajab Omondi.

Juma is alleged to have given the investor a business card that identified him as 'chairman' of Westload, while Omondi's card stated that he was the funding officer of the same company.

It is claimed that during the meeting, the victim signed a contract with Westload for a USD 15 million (Sh 1.8 billion) loan to put up a school in Qatar.

The deal required that the businessperson would pay USD 225,000 (Sh27 million) for consultancy. The money, the court heard, would be paid in two instalments of USD 157,000 (Sh18.6 million), the second payment of USD 67, 500 (Sh8million).

Following the deal, the court heard that Juma started communicating with the victim over WhatsApp and he wired approximately USD 164,500 (Sh19.5milion). This was between November 13 and 14, 2019.

It is alleged that on December 1, 2019, Juma provided the investor with a wire transfer confirmation showing USD 15 million had allegedly been wired from the Barclays Bank PLC account to the Qatar National Bank (QNB) for his company. However, this is alleged to have been a forgery.

Three days later, QNB informed the victim that it had not received any money.

A day later, on the 5th, Juma is alleged to have asked the victim to 'pay for the release order' that was needed to secure the loan.

The victim is said to have paid USD 150,000 (Sh17.8 million). It is alleged that Juma then communicated to another accomplice to further the scheme.

He is said to have used WhatsApp and Tiktok and he sent the details of the victim.

According to the state, they exchanged hundreds of messages, on how to con the victim and this included a plot to 'pretend to be Malik, a banker at Wells Fargo Bank in the US'.

The victim is said to have paid money for fees, and taxes without knowing that the plot was to have a fraudulent website and automated phone that would convince him that Sh 1.8 billion loans had been secured.

It is alleged that the victim lost close to Sh 1.8 billion between November 2019 and April 2020. The money is said to have been used to buy luxury items among other things.

If extradited to the US, Juma is to face three counts of fraud. The first is a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. At the same time, he was indicted by the jury to face conspiracy to commit money laundering and third is aggravated identity theft.

At the magistrate's court, Chief Magistrate Wendy Micheni found that that Haji's team had convinced her that Juma cannot be tried in Kenya. According to her, the court had been told that his co-conspirators had been already flown to the US for trial.

"I am satisfied that there is a connecting factor between the fugitive and the charges levelled against him. To this end, I do find that the applicant has laid before this court evidence that meets the threshold to warrant the fugitive to be extradited," ruled Micheni.

Juma had also claimed that he will not get a fair trial in the US. However, the court found that the charges were not politically instigated.

She ordered that he should be flown to the US and the cost of flight to face his fate ought to be borne by the US Embassy in Nairobi.

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