Via Cyprian Nyakundi
A Nairobi court has frozen two accounts belonging to a law firm suspected to be holding funds alleged to be proceeds of fake gold.
Principal magistrate Martha Nanzushi allowed the application by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) freezing two accounts of Okundi & Company Advocates for three months. The court was told that the two accounts, one at Stanbic Bank and another at Standard Chartered, hold $3 million (about Sh300 million), on behalf of Jared Kiasa Otieno and Chris Philip Okeyo Obure.
In an affidavit filed in court, the investigator also sought to be allowed to scrutinise the books of accounts relating to the two accounts. The documents to be inspected are account opening documents, statements of accounts since the opening of the accounts to date, cheques, cash deposits, withdrawals and RTGS transfers.
Mr Tom Ayieko Okundi, the principal partner of the affected law firm, is a man with a colourful legal career ever since he was certified to practice in 1996.
When working with Oraro and Rachier advocates, he played a key role in the 1998 scandal of grabbed Karura Forest plots. Parliament was told that he commissioned tens of companies that were allocated land in the forest. He would later argue that he was duped into being part of the deal and that he failed to check the authenticity of the companies’ directors and their
Mr Okundi’s alleged involvement in fake gold deals is also the subject of a lawsuit filed in 2015 by United Kingdom resident Ken Fazakerley.
In last week’s case, the court heard that ARA was informed by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that the law firm received the amount from Simuong Group Company Ltd. It is alleged that the money was fraudulently paid to Mr Otieno who has already been charged in court.
It is alleged that Mr Otieno obtained the amount from the company pretending that he was in a position to sell them gold.
The investigator said that they have already opened an inquiry file, with plans to investigate the offence of money laundering and proceedings of crimes. The second account to be scrutinised in the same law firm is at Standard Chartered Bank, suspected to be holding money belonging to Mr Obure.
The court was told the named parties were likely to withdraw or transfer all the money, and frustrate the ongoing investigations.
Mr Otieno, known for his flashy lifestyle, is facing fraud charges in a Sh300 million fake gold transaction. He denied the offence and was released on Sh1.5 million cash bail. He was charged with 15 other persons
Mr Ricky Thomas Ochieng, alias Tom Okoth, and Juliet Kathambi Kithinji, who are students, were released on a cash bail of Sh300,000 while two foreigners, Abouma Tamoua and Albert Likole Lokunda, were ordered to deposit a Sh1 million cash bail each or a bond of similar amount with one contact person.
The accused were further ordered to deposit their passports in court and to be reporting to the investigating officers once in two weeks failure to which their bond or bail will be cancelled.
The 16 were charged with obtaining Sh300 million from a man from Laos, pretending that they would sell him gold.
Mr Otieno, together with Mr Philip Nashon Aroko, Mr Robert Ouko Owiti and Mr Michael Ochieng denied that on diverse dates between February 8 and February 25, 2019 at Kaputei Gardens, with intent to defraud, they obtained from Sounthorn Chanthavong, a director of Simoung Group Company $3 million (about Sh300 million).
The court heard that they pretended that they had genuine gold in their possession. Other accused persons are Peter Omondi, Paul Otieno, Alice Nzisa, Joyce Akinyi and Seinim Boukar.
It is alleged that using fraudulent tricks and displaying heavy metal boxes, packed with genuine gold bars and an office trading as Nirone Safe Keeping, they pretended to be carrying out genuine gold business. They were further accused of counterfeiting Ghana customs stickers, purporting them to be genuine.
The court heard that between February 8 and 25, Mr Chanthavong, who deals in buying and selling of gold, was allegedly lured to house No. 12 at Kaputei Gardens in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa area and lost $3 million after being duped that the items he bought were genuine gold.
Police raided the house allegedly owned by Mr Otieno and arrested 15 people in connection with the fraud. It was initially stated that they recovered mobile phones, 28 steel boxes, several sledge hammer heads, seven desktop computers and gold-coated iron bars.
The trial against the 16 will start on July 2.
This comes as uncertainty continues over a separate fake gold case in which a man linked to the United Arab Emirates royal family is alleged to have been conned by a group that includes, among others, Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Zaheer Jhanda.