NO FOUL PLAY

Our money is clean, Nigerians in Sh25bn probe tell agency

They insist their businesses are out to help Nigerians abroad send money home

In Summary
  • ARA officials said they will make a decision on a later date. A case filed in court over the transactions is set for mention on July 5, 2022.
  • “They insisted the transactions are genuine and pass the laid down laws arguing that they are an online remittance platform.”
Crime scene
Crime scene
Image: THE STAR

Officials of companies under probe over claims of money laundering involving more than Sh25 billion say their transactions are clean and above board.

The officials based in Nairobi honoured summonses to the Assets Recovery Agency and explained how they operate.

They insisted their businesses are out to help Nigerians abroad send money home.

Officials aware of the meetings at ARA offices in Nairobi said the representatives were accompanied by a lawyer and armed with records of their transactions.

“They showed how money is collected in London through a remittance agency, sent to Equity Bank in Kenya and later to UBA which is a Nigerian bank,” a source aware of the developments said.

The representatives said various laws in Nigeria have made it difficult for most Nigerians abroad to remit money back home hence the chain of events.

“They insisted the transactions are genuine and pass the laid down laws arguing they are an online remittance platform.”

ARA officials said they will make a decision on a later date. A case filed in court over the transactions is set for mention on July 5, 2022.

Two Nigerians and two Kenyans have been linked to Sh5.6 billion frozen in six bank accounts over alleged money laundering.

The billions in Equity Bank and UBA Bank were frozen by the High Court on April 4 after ARA applied to block the transfer or withdrawal, pending the filing of a petition to have the money forfeited to the government.

This was after it emerged the companies behind the businesses had wired more than Sh25 billion between October and November last year.

The Kenyan officials were also informed  by the Interpol who had been alerted by other agencies in Europe of the suspicious transactions.

The money was wired to the Kenyan banks from multiple countries, including Nigeria and London, to three companies identified as Avalon Offshore Logistics Limited, OIT Africa Limited, and RemX Capital Limited.

ARA said in court papers that the probe on transactions involving the Sh5.6 billion started in February.

“On February 11, 2022, the agency received information on a suspected case of money laundering schemes and acquisition of proceeds of crime involving multiple money transactions," the paper reads.

"Conducting through the bank accounts of the respondents in US dollars and Kenya shillings mainly from foreign jurisdiction whose source has no legitimate explanation."

The papers say the investigations have shown the respondents executed a complex scheme of money laundering designed to conceal, disguise the nature, source disposition and movement of illicit funds suspected to constitute proceeds of crime.

Court documents state transactions involving the Sh5.6 billion were conducted through suspicious transfers and withdrawals meant to hide the source.

According to papers in court, OIT Africa had Sh4.8 billion in two Equity accounts and one in UBA.

Avalon Offshore Logistics had Sh43.5 million in two Equity accounts, while RemX Capital had Sh765 million in one UBA account.

ARA said it believes the two Kenyans are fronts of the Nigerians who are suspected to have the backing of a powerful politician.

One of the Kenyans is a sister to a controversial senator.

ARA officials are conducting background checks to establish if there is any link between the two and the issue under probe.

If the issue is found to be true in terms of laundering, the two banks could find themselves in trouble given the past such experience involving the National Youth Service probe.

This is because the Kenyan banks are supposed to alert the Financial Reporting Centre of suspicious transactions under anti-money laundering laws, including reporting large transactions and undertaking due diligence on customers.

The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and the Central Bank of Kenya fined five banks including Standard Chartered Kenya, Equity, Diamond Trust, Co-operative Bank and KCB Sh777 million for failing to report suspicious transactions in connection with the theft of funds at NYS.

The latest developments have caused jitters in the industry.

Justice Esther Maina barred the companies and their agents from withdrawing or transferring the money, pending the hearing of a petition by the ARA.

(Edited by Tabnacha O)

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