The High Court yesterday ordered the forfeiture of more than Sh43 million belonging to Josphat Kamau, a businessman accused of smuggling cigarettes from Uganda.
Justice James Wakiaga ruled that the funds held in Kamau’s Equity bank accounts are proceeds of crime and are therefore liable to be handed to the state. Mr. Kamau was given a chance to explain the source of the funds deposited in his three accounts at Equity Bank but failed to give a satisfactory answer. The judge then ordered that the funds be forfeited immediately, and deposited into the Assets Recovery Agency’s (ARA) account held at Kenya Commercial Bank Limited KICC branch.
ARA told the court that according to its preliminary investigations the funds in Kamau’s accounts were most likely obtained through illegitimate trade in smuggled goods. Additionally, an analysis of his bank statements revealed suspicious transactions of Sh24.2 million which coincided with his two lorries criss-crossing the Kenya- Uganda border. The deposits were made in tranches below Sh1 million to evade the reporting threshold. Mr Kamau also received a total of Sh40.6 million two days prior and two days after his vehicles crossed Lwakhakha border point some 13 times and on all the occasions the driver declared that the vehicle was empty. ARA further noted that Mr. Kamau’s two lorries, which were nabbed in 2019, had been modified for the purpose of concealing unaccustomed goods.
In his defence, Mr. Kamau alleged that he had used the vehicles for his cereal business since 2014 and they are worth more than the money in his accounts. The two lorries were impounded carrying 240 and 150 cartons of Supermatch cigarettes worth Sh9.7 million in October 2019 and the driver charged before an Eldoret court.
In his ruling, Justice Wakiaga asserted that any business must have records to support its operations, which were missing in Mr. Kamau’s case. Mr Kamau also failed to produce any licenses issued to him by relevant authorities in support of the undertakings he was engaged in, leading to the only logical conclusion being that: his motor vehicles were used for smuggling goods to Uganda and the funds in the said accounts were therefore, proceeds of crime.
Satisfied that the evidence presented by ARA had proven Mr. Kamau’s guilt, and with no rebuttable evidence to the contrary, Justice Wakiaga, ordered the forfeiture of the funds held in his accounts to the state, as they were proceeds of crime.
The ruling will go a long way to deter other smugglers who deny the country tax revenue and stifle local industries through their illicit business.