'PROCEEDS OF CRIME'

Sonko gets reprieve after court orders unfreezing of his accounts

Magistrate faults the Assets Recovery Agency for failing to seek an extension of the orders

In Summary

• The county chief argued that the move was informed by malice.

• The agency had sought the freezing orders and access to the accounts to carry out investigations.  

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.
Image: FILE

A magistrate's court has ordered the Assets Recovery Agency to immediately unfreeze five bank accounts belonging to Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. 

The accounts were frozen in December last year following an order by senior resident magistrate Elekta Riany after the Agency told the court that the cash held in those accounts were proceeds of crime.

Yesterday, magistrate Martha Mutuku faulted the ARA for failing to approach the court and have the orders extended after they expired in December last year. The orders were to remain effective for 14 days beginning December 11. The agency had yet to seek an extension. 

"The agency was riding on expired court orders. They should have sought an extension as is required by the law. The continued freezing of the accounts will be highly prejudicial to the holders of the accounts. I, therefore, direct the unfreezing of the accounts," she said.

Sonko, through lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui, argued that freezing his bank accounts was unjust, oppressive, unconstitutional and without merit. He said the court was not given compelling reasons or proof to raise reasonable suspicion on claims of fraudulent transactions related to the accounts.

The county chief further argued that the move was informed by malice because there were no proceedings or charges of money laundering preferred against him in any court. Again, there was no evidence showing that the money was proceeds of crime, he said.

The agency had sought the freezing orders and access to the accounts to carry out investigations. It alleged that the accounts had suspicious transactions believed to be proceeds of crime from illegal financing, theft and money laundering activities from the Nairobi government.

Sonko has since been charged in court over economic crimes, abuse of office, unlawful acquisition of property and irregular payments that resulted in the loss of Sh357 million by the county. He was later released on Sh15 million bail and barred from accessing his office.

The requirement for governors facing criminal charges to keep away from their offices started when High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi upheld a decision of a magistrate's court barring Samburu county boss Moses Lenolkulal from accessing his office.