HOW WIVES BECOME COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN DIRTY DEALS

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It is fun to sit in the front row at the royal shows, fly by brands to exotic locales for high end events, eat and dine with the ‘billionaires’ and perhaps play golf with them, it is fun, until you discover that your lavish lifestyle is fueled by embezzled government funds.

That is a glimpse of the life Rosaline Wanjira Abachi, lived, not knowing her husband Patrick Ochieno Abachi’s financial dealings, although she enjoyed every bit of the proceeds of his deals.

Patrick Otieno Abachi worked at the Finance Ministry between October 2003 and 2007, when he was alleged of embezzling public funds by authorizing payments in what is termed as the Anglo Leasing security-type and related contracts.

The contracts were fictitious deals estimated at 18, in which the government was to pay out billions of shillings to foreign companies.

The government through a multi-agency framework against anti-corruption, involving The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), revealed through investigations that the contracts involved corrupt deals which were connected to the unexplained wealth by Mr Abachi. His assets were vast, valued at KShs. 80.4 million while his gross salary was KShs. 53,900.

Investigations revealed that these assets were acquired between 2002 and 2007 and were registered in the names of his wife, brother and other close relatives. When confronted by investigators, Mr Abachi’s wife contradicted his husband’s statements, regarding the unexplained wealth. Whereas the husband maintained that the wife had contributed to the purchase of a motor vehicle and a house which were part of the couples’ wealth, Ms Abachi stated that the items were bought by her husband.

Further, ARA revealed that Mr Abachi owned businesses which, were cloak companies used to launder his ill-gotten wealth. Both Abachi and Rosaline were directors of one of the companies – Rick Seaside Villas. In two years between October 19, 2005 and December 14, 2007, deposits worth KShs. 17, 223, 105 were made into accounts held in the Rick Seaside Villas account. The deposits could not be linked to either salaries or emoluments.

Through a Multi-Agency raid at the South C house, investigations revealed some KShs. 1.9 million in the house, whose source could not be explained. From the Court proceedings, it was not clear whether Rosaline the accused’s wife was totally innocent or part of the well-orchestrated scheme.

Cases of spouse’s involvement in their partners’ dirty corruption dealings are rampant.

In another case, ARA applied for the forfeiture of some assets, including properties and motor vehicles that Samuel Wachenje, a former finance director at the National Youth Service (NYS), is said to have bought using stolen money in the infamous NYS scandal.

Mr Wachenje, court proceedings show that he had impeccably covered his tracks in the Sh800 million scam. However, a soft spot for his wife Susan Mkiwa Mndanyi might have given him away.

He is reported to have received part of the Sh791.4 million that the key suspect Josephine Kabura fraudulently got from NYS.

According to ARA, on March 31, 2015, Kabura deposited Sh40 million to the account of one Sam Mwandime held at Family Bank, Kagwe branch.

As it turned out, Sam Mwandime was actually Mr Wachenje. Wachenje, the investigators said, is alleged to have used a forged national identification card to open the account.

He had acquired a fake identification card using the serial identification number of one Fatuma Osman Abdi. He also used the identification number of one Samuel Karongoi Kihara.

Armed with this new identity, Wachenje then approached Tirus Kamau and his wife Esther Nthenya Nzioki seeking to purchase a house in Kasarani. This house, registered in Nthenya’s name, was valued at Sh21 million.

Then sale agreement in respect of the property, the detectives noted, was signed between Susan Mkiwa Mndanyi Wachenje on July 11, 2015.

Ms Mndanyi, as it turned out, was the wife of Wachenje, not Mwandime. And that is how she might have found herself on the wrong side of the law. Then there are couples whose gangster-like infamy, according to the State, would put them at par with Bonnie and Clyde if found guilty.

On February 21 last year, Justice Mumbi Ngugi ordered the State to seize properties belonging to one Joseph Wanjohi and his wife Jane Wambui after ARA alleged that they were bought with proceeds of crime.

ARA claims that Mr Wanjohi bought the properties, including three pieces of land, using proceeds of illegitimate trade in wildlife trophies and narcotic drugs.
The properties were registered in a company which the two jointly owned.

Wanjohi and his wife were also accused of trading in alcohol illegally, with the law enforcers finding alcoholic drinks valued at Sh7 million when they raided his houses in Muthaiga.

Thomas Gitau Njogu, a senior assistant accountant general, was accused of embezzling and misappropriating petty cash.

He is said to have deposited some of the money, close to Sh111 million, into bank accounts registered in his name. The rest were channelled to bank accounts belonging to his wife, Teresia Njeri Gitau.

Some of the cash would also be deposited into the account of Njetash Enterprises, a company owned by Njeri, whose sole purpose, the judge reckoned, was to launder stolen cash.

Legitimate income for Gitau, according to State calculation was Sh8,672,639 in the period of interest as part of wealth declaration, which he got from salary, rent, sale of motor vehicles dividends. But it was way below the Sh111 million he is said to have embezzled.

Mr Njogu denied having unexplained assets arising out of corruption, noting that he was a certified accountant whose record in various government offices had been unblemished.

When the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives raided his home in Mururui Estate, they found Sh1.2 million in cash.

Gitau explained that Sh500,000 was a loan from a friend to pay builders; Sh715,000 was said to be part of a loan advanced to him and his wife by a long-time friend for purposes of boosting their rental business; while Sh24,940 was said to have been accumulated balances and fines from their welfare society.

According to the High Court Judge John Onyiego, Njogu could not explain the source of all the funds except the Sh24,940 from the welfare society. He ordered for the rest of the money to be recovered by the State.

Njeri described herself as a business lady operating a retail shop (stall) within Uhuru Market. Here, she said, she sells materials for making bags and clothes.
She recounted how sometime in 2000 she started rearing chicken, pigs and dairy cows. It was during this period that she registered a business under the name Njetash. But the business did not pick.

She said from her layers and broilers chicken, she started supplying eggs and chicken meat to various hotels and open markets in Wangige and Thika. Out of her sales, she could make Sh15,000 per day.

She claimed to have stopped farming sometime in 2009 when the family moved to Marurui estate, as neighbours complained of noise from the livestock and chicken. So, she started a beauty shop along Thika Road.

In 2011, they decided to construct self-contained single rooms at Kasarani from which tenants started depositing rent straight to an account at Equity Bank in her name trading as Njetash Enterprises.

But ARA argued that Njetash Enterprises was incorporated solely for money laundering purposes.

Rather ridiculous

For example, there is a time the Njogus are said to have borrowed Sh20 million from a longtime friend, a Mr Francis Mureithi, to buy a house in Kajiado. Six months later, Mureithi is said to have bought the house for Sh55 million.

“This explanation is rather ridiculous to any ordinary person. Although I am not a market expert and land valuer, it is unbelievable and the only logical conclusion is that the defendants were engaged in money laundering,” said Justice Onyiego.

This company, investigations revealed, had never filed tax returns.

In total, Njogu is said to have received Sh40 million in “friendly” cash loans without collateral nor evidence to prove the source of the money by the lenders.
Njeri also claimed to have borrowed Sh20 million from a friend, Ann Wathatu, for purposes of acquiring a house at Thome, off the Thika superhighway. However, Ms Wathatu in her affidavit did not talk about the loan she advanced to Teresia, noted the judge.

Tracy Musau, however, was able to prove that she was financially independent, escaping the wrath of the court after ordering the forfeiture of her husband’s revenues totalling Sh317,648,604.

Her husband, Jimmy Mutuku, was the former chief officer of finance at the Nairobi City County in 2015.

Before that, he had been city treasurer for Mombasa between 2009 and 2011 and city treasurer for the defunct City Council of Nairobi between 2011 and 2013. He is accused of his position to confer benefits to himself. He denied the charges.

The State had accused Ms Musau of holding some properties in trust for her husband as she was depositing money in her account and using it to buy properties. Some of the properties were in her name, while others were in joint names.

However, the judge was satisfied with the explanation on the income from her businesses in interior design and a beauty parlour.

“She attached a bundle of receipts from ‘Tracey’s Interior Designs,’ which I have perused and it is evident that she used to make tidy sums from the business. It is, therefore, my considered view that the income from this business has been sufficiently explained,” said judge Hedwig Ong’udi in a July 2019 judgment.

Musau admitted having two properties in her name, B & M and one joint property with her husband, which was acquired in 2007.

A report by The Sentry, an investigative policy team, fingered Kenyan authorities for being among those that have done little to address the significant risk of money-laundering, especially in real estate.

“Persistent loopholes and gaps in anti-money laundering standards involving real estate provide illicit actors with various options for laundering money through real estate.”

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