In yet another major setback for deputy president William Ruto’s presidential ambitions, the government has seized over Sh5.6 billion he had wired to the country through proxies for use in the August 9 general election campaigns.
Informed sources revealed that Ruto has been using his son-in-law, Alexander Ezenagu, a Nigerian national, and former Nigeria vice-president, Atiku Abubakar to bring money to Kenya for use in the campaigns.
The two have through Kenyans and Nigerian proxies opened bank accounts in Kenya and Uganda which they use to withdraw large sums of money for onward transmission to the deputy president.
But security agents, in collaboration with Interpol, have been following Ezenagu and Abubakar’s money trail locally and internationally and have established the identities of the proxies in Kenya and Uganda.
Insiders revealed that some of the proxies used include directors of Avalon Offshore who are Nigerians Jeffrey Nnaoma Michaels and Uduma Okoro Christopher Kalu.
The said company was registered in November 2020 and has its address in Westlands. Kalu and Nnaoma are listed as directors of the company, with Kalu holding 1,600 ordinary shares while the rest are owned by his partner.
Nnaoma is also listed as a director of several companies registered in Nigeria, including a forex bureau.
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The post office number of the two Nigerians was linked to several firms that operate from the 13th floor of the prestigious Delta Corner office tower in Westlands.
The investigators found OIT Africa had Sh4.8 billion in two Equity accounts and one in UBA but could not explain the source of the money.
Other proxies are directors of OIT Africa who are Kenyans, Vionnah Akoth Odongo and Kenneth Odongo Raminya, who have 500 shares each.
The OIT Africa was registered on July 14 2017, raising eyebrows on the nature of business it does.
OIT Africa claims it operates from 680 Plaza, the building that hosts the 680 Hotel but its mobile number is registered under the name of a different person, who denied knowledge of OIT Africa and Odongo and Raminya when called by journalists.
Avalon Offshore Logistics had Sh43.5 million in two Equity accounts, while Remix Capital, which is a ghost company had Sh765 million in one UBA account.
The two firms were unable to show the source of the funds. Insiders added that the Kenyan security agencies backed by Interpol were able to establish the link between Ruto and the directors of the said companies, through Ezenagu and Abubakar.
The deputy president’s eldest daughter, June, married Ezenagu mid last year in a lavish ceremony in Nairobi that resident Uhuru Kenyatta boycotted though he had been invited.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi was the notable guest. Insiders revealed that the state agencies and Interpol trailed Ruto when in November 2020 he traveled to Dubai and had a meeting with Abubakar who has been living there for many years.
What raised an eyebrow is that in 2006 the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Maryland home of Abubakar in search of bribe money that the bureau believed had been paid to him by representative William Jefferson.
The documents included an affidavit signed by an FBI agent who said the then Nigerian vice-president, Abubakar, then a candidate for president of the oil-rich West African nation, asked for at least half of the profits of a technology company controlled by Jefferson that was seeking to do business in Nigeria.
About the same time, the documents said, Jefferson told colleagues of his plans to bribe Nigerian officials, including Abubakar, in exchange for their help in winning business in Nigeria, and that Abubakar would be paid as much as $500,000 in cash.
Abubakar worked under president Olusegun Obasanjo as the vice president.
The two clashed with Obasanjo calling it quits on their friendship entirely. In his latest memoir as the president of Nigeria, Obasanjo describes his former deputy as a very selfish person who will tread on morals just for money.
Insiders added that the state agencies with the help of Interpol again trailed Ruto when he jetted to Dubai in mid-February this year, in what sources described as a routine medical checkup.
In the Dubai visit, Ruto also met his daughter, June, who lives with her husband, Ezenagu, and plans of wiring money to Kenya for campaigns topped the agenda.
Unknown to Ruto, state security agents and Interpol were trailing him even when he sneaked out of Dubai to Italy accompanied by Ezenagu and Abubakar.
In the unspecified mission to Italy that was first exposed by Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Ruto met some directors of CMC Di Ravenna, the Italian company that was controversially contracted by the government to undertake the construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams in breach of all laws related to procurement.
There are reports Ruto was paid over Sh4 billion in kickbacks by the Italian firm. Insiders added that the two-day Italy meeting discussed ways of wiring money paid as kickbacks to Ruto to Kenya.
After the Italy visit, Ruto in the company of Ezenagu and Abubakar flew on a private jet back to Dubai where the deputy president visited Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria who had been receiving treatment there.
It was during the visit that Kuria invited Ruto for his homecoming thanksgiving prayer that was scheduled to happen at Thika Stadium. Kuria had suffered a third-degree burn from an electric mat that malfunctioned.
Insiders added that it was at this juncture that Interpol and Kenya security agencies established the identities of the proxies Ezenagu and Abubakar were used in Kenya and Uganda to money for Ruto’s use during the campaigns.
The sleuths were able to link the Sh5.6 billion that was frozen in six bank accounts over alleged money laundering to Ruto.
Last week, the High Court ordered the freezing of the large amount that was in the accounts in Equity Bank #ticker:EQTY and UBA Bank after the Assets Recovery Agency applied to block the transfer or withdrawal, pending the filing of a petition to have the money forfeited to the government.
The money was wired into the country from multiple countries, including Nigeria, to three companies identified as OIT Africa Ltd, Avalon Offshore Logistics Ltd and RemiX Capital Ltd.
The ARA said the four directors of the firms—the two Nigerians and two Kenyans—shrugged off repeated summons to explain the source of the billions.
The state agency believes the two Kenyans, including one who graduated from a local public university in 2018, are fronts of the Nigerians who are suspected to have the backing of a powerful politician, who is Ruto.
The assets recovery unit said the probe on transactions involving the Sh5.6 billion started in February, indirectly revealing it was going on when Ruto visited Dubai and sneaked to Italy.
“The agency received information on a suspected case of money laundering schemes and acquisition of proceeds of crime involving multiple money transactions conducted through the bank accounts of the respondents in US dollars and Kenya shillings mainly from foreign jurisdiction whose source has no legitimate explanation,” the petition stated. 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 Remix Capital had Sh765 million in one UBA account.
The court heard that the United Bank of Africa Kenya held Sh5 billion was acquired illegally through unethical banking practices and money laundering. In a Miscellaneous Criminal Application No E015/2022 filed on March 10, the Asset Recovery Agency sought from the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court to investigate the bank for the offense of money laundering. The court issued the orders, which puts the bank in the full probe.
By allowing the authority to conduct its investigations, the court wanted the bank to restrict for at least 45 days account number 5501030010886 under the name Oit Africa Limited held at the same bank from doing any transactions to allow the investigating officer Issac Nakitare to access and obtain information on that account.
ARA also sought the bank’s corporation to retrieve crucial for the investigations including information on when the account was opened, bank statements since the account was opened, cheques/cash deposits and withdraws and bank RTGS/swifts transfers and other relevant info that would aid the probe. ARA was also seeking to compel UBA managers to authorise and give the investigating officer electrically produced evidence to be used in court. The officer said there was compelling ground for the suspicion of the account being used in money laundering. Nakitare swore in the affidavit that on March 4 2022, ARA received information that the said bank account had transacted and holding funds suspected to be proceeds of crime and the agency opened an Inquiry file No 14 of 2022 to investigate and inquire into activities in this account for the offences of money laundering leading to proceeds of crime. Nakitare in his affidavit said he feared the funds held in the flagged account may be withdrawn, transferred, spent or dissipated rendering the application and intended recovery of proceeds of crime nugatory. The United Bank of Africa Kenya chief executive officer is Chike Isiuwe. He was appointed in August last year replacing Kehinde Omirinde who had been serving as acting CEO of the bank, which began operations in Kenya in 2009.
It is a subsidiary of UBA Plc. Isiuwe joined the UBA-Kenya from UBA Group in Nigeria, where he was the deputy general manager – Corporate Banking Directorate. In the affidavit, ARA sought to record statements from the entire management, fearing the Nigerian workers were part of the money laundering syndicate. The investigations further wanted to unravel the period the bank has been engaged in clearing billions of shillings in the height of 2022 elections. There are reports a senior Central Bank of Kenya board member with connections to a senior state official who has since fallen out with the high powers, was commanded to cushion the bank from any troubles given his position at CBK. For Viola Achola, 20, she is reportedly listed as the director of Oit Africa Limited, the firm under probe, she’s claimed to be close to the wife of mentioned CBK board member. In August last year, Ruto was stopped from flying to Uganda by Kenyan authorities. Onboard was Turkish businessman Harun Aydin who was later detained by security officials when he flew back to Nairobi before being deported to Turkey. Ayrdin was linked to terrorism and money laundering. Insiders added that following the raid by ARA, a cash crunch has hit Ruto’s party, United Democratic Alliance ahead of its primaries slated for April 14.
There are reports the party is facing financial hurdles despite raking in over Sh350 million in nomination fees from aspiring candidates. The reports state a chunk of millions collected from party nomination fees was channeled to procuring merchandise while the rest is under Ruto’s presidential budget. This has left the party with a gaping budget deficit straining party operations. The source further revealed that several campaign teams have either been disbanded or merged to cut operational costs. Specifically, the communication teams have been halved with the arrival of former Citizen TV anchor Hussein Muhammed with hundreds of bloggers sacked or getting a trivial Sh3,000 per month. According to National Elections Board chairperson, Anthony Mwaura, the cash shortage has forced the party to hire a paltry 128 presiding officers and 100,000 clerks to manage party primaries. This shortage is expected to adversely affect the outcome of party nominations, causing panic and distress among the candidates fearing the process might be synonymous with Jubilee primaries in 2017. The financial hitch at Hustler Centre has also affected Ruto’s presidential campaign since last month. Ruto, who was known to hop from one mega rally to the other a few months ago has tremendously reduced his political activities. Other sources have revealed that key aspiring candidates are forced to fork millions to fund rallies in their backyard as cushioning the DP from embarrassment as his party has run broke.