Why Rigathi Gachagua could lose Sh207m to State

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Mathira Member of Parliament Rigathi Gachagua received a major blow yesterday after an anti-corruption court ordered him to surrender Sh202 million he acquired through corruption.

Lady Justice Esther Maina’s order that the MP forfeits the Sh202 million to the government was, however, just a fraction of the Sh19 billion he is suspected to have acquired through trading with various government agencies in just seven years between 2013 and 2020.

“The evidence adduced in court proves that his money was acquired through corruption and liable for forfeiture to the State. He (Gachagua) even admitted that he received the money from the government agencies but did not show any evidence on how he acquired the funds,” ruled Justice Maina.

The judgment was a culmination of three years of investigations in which the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) gave a blow-by-blow account of how the MP, who is also the United Democratic Alliance deputy presidential candidate, used underhand deals to acquire his wealth without breaking a sweat.

Just two weeks ago during the deputy presidential candidates’ debate, Gachagua talked extensively about State capture and described it as the act of public officers trading with the government in a clear conflict of interest.

His own understanding of State capture has, however, returned to haunt him after Justice Maina ruled that the money was illegally acquired when the MP traded with various government agencies and unjustly enriched himself without supplying any goods and services.

“The only evidence he brought to court was a letter from a certain government ministry claiming that his company had been awarded a multi-million shillings contract. But there was no evidence that he executed the contract or supplied the goods and services,” ruled Justice Maina.

According to the judge, ARA had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Gachagua and his business associate Anne Kimemia- trading as Jenne Enterprises Ltd- engaged in corrupt practices and acquired the millions which they could not explain.

Among the State agencies, the MP illegally traded with are the Ministry of Lands, State Department for Special Planning, Ministry of Health, Bungoma and Nyeri county governments, Mathira Constituency Development Fund, and the National Irrigation Board.

“There is no evidence that they delivered any services or goods to the State agencies they traded with. It leaves the court with no option but to declare that the money constitutes proceeds of crime and corruption that must be forfeited to the state,” ruled Justice Maina.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

The judgement came as a bitter shock to the MP who in a recent campaign tour of Nyeri promised that he would ensure he gets back his money once elected and use it to build a house for them to celebrate.

Justice Maina also found that the MP lied that he had acquired the money through loans since he did not provide any evidence to prove the claims.

In its pursuit of Gachagua’s ill-gotten wealth, ARA established that he was involved in a complex scheme of money laundering involving several companies which received funds from government ministries before the money was transferred to his personal accounts.

According to ARA, Gachagua’s three personal accounts conducted a series of huge suspicious debit transactions amounting to Sh7.3 billion and a total credit of Sh12.5 billion between 2013 and 2020, which the agency believes are proceeds of crime.

Out of the huge bank transactions, the agency claimed that the MP and his business associates could not explain how they acquired a total of Sh202 million. One of the accounts registered in Gachagua’s name at Rafiki Micro Finance Bank had Sh165 million, the second account also at Rafiki Micro Finance Bank had Sh35 million, the third account had Sh773,228, while the fourth account under the name of Jenne Enterprises had Sh1.3 million.

ARA’s application detailed how the MP, while trading under different companies, would receive millions of shillings from different State agencies and hurriedly transfer them to other entities and personal bank accounts to conceal the source.

Among the companies he used as conduits for the proceeds are Wamunyoro Investment Ltd, Specific Supplies Ltd, Wamunyoro Investments and Machine Cent, Crystal Kenya Ltd, and Technical Supplies and Services Ltd.

Evidence filed by ARA showed that in a record two weeks between May 9 and 24, 2013, the MP received a total of Sh64 million in his personal accounts without disclosing the source of the funds.

On January 7, 2014, he transferred Sh100 million to another account, and Sh65 million on July 4, 2014, believed to have been siphoned from the Ministry of Lands and Housing.

The State agency submitted that after analysing Gachagua’s business accounts, they discovered a pattern in which payments were made that did not depict the existence of any lawful or reasonable business as he claimed, but instead indicated a complex money laundering scheme.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. [George Njunge, Standard]

But in his response to the suit, the MP claimed that he was being persecuted for being a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto. He asserted that his wealth has nothing to do with corruption and money laundering. Gachagua denied dealing with any government entity to acquire his multi-billion shillings wealth, saying that his money was acquired through hard work and genuine business deals.

Justice Maina, however, agreed with ARA that Gachagua did not tender any shred of evidence to show any legitimate means he used to obtain the money, and that there was no evidence of existence of verifiable business contract he signed with the State agencies.

“The court is also satisfied that the respondent (Gachagua) lied that he was holding the money in trust of other entities. The claims are fictitious since no deed of trustee instruments were presented to prove his claims,” ruled Justice Maina.

ARA had also told the court that they discovered Gachagua misused vulnerable youths and duped them into being conduits of money laundering to siphon funds from various government departments for his own benefit.

The court further agreed with the agency’s submissions that although Gachagua claimed some of the money in his accounts were loans, he had not presented any evidence to back up the claims thus leading the judge to reach conclude that the cash was proceeds of crime that must be forfeited to the State.

The suit to recover his money was just one of the cases Gachagua is facing as he still has to battle another corruption case in which he is accused of fraudulently receiving Sh7.3 billion from various State agencies.

According to the charges, Gachagua allegedly acquired the Sh7.3 billion through his three personal accounts at Rafiki Micro Finance Bank while knowing that the money formed part of proceeds of crimes and corruption.

He is facing two other counts of money laundering in which the prosecution has alleged the MP received a total of Sh112 million from Bungoma and Kwale counties, respectively, and engaged in transactions to conceal the money trail while aware the cash was proceeds of crime.

In the other charges, Gachagua is accused of conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption where it is alleged he defrauded the County Government of Nyeri of Sh27.4 million between May 2015 and December 2016, and another Sh6 million from Nyeri Provincial General Hospital.