Couple in drugs case to forfeit cash, prime land

Friday, March 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Drug trafficking case suspects Joseph Wanjohi (right) and Jane Wambui Wanjiru at a past court appearance. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Alphonce Mung’ahu

The High Court has frozen bank accounts and attached property worth Sh. 10 million belonging to a couple implicated in narcotics trafficking.

Joseph Wanjohi and Jane Wambui Wanjiru’s property, which was declared proceeds of crime and, therefore, liable for forfeiture to the State, includes Sh10.5 million in banks, several top-of-the range vehicles and land.  

Wanjohi, an alleged wheeler-dealer who enjoyed high connections in previous governments is accused jointly with his wife of trafficking in heroin.

In a 150-page judgment, High Court judge Mumbi Ngugi issued orders declaring that Sh10,589,069.9 held in the name of Joseph Wanjohi at Barclays Bank, Moi Avenue branch, Nairobi, and in the name of Sidjoe Manufacturers and Suppliers at Barclays Bank, Muthaiga North branch, is proceeds of crime and, therefore, liable for forfeiture to the State.

Prime land

She also froze bank accounts in the name of Sidjoe Manufacturers and Suppliers at Barclays Bank Muthaiga North branch and another in the name of Joseph Wanjohi at Barclays Bank Moi Avenue branch, Nairobi with Sh10,013,187.60 and Sh575,882.30, respectively.

The judge also ordered two Range Rovers, two Mercedes Benz cars and a Toyota saloon surrendered to the State.

Other property to be forfeited to the State includes three prime parcels of land registered in the name of Marudiano Zone Limited.

In a case filed by the Assets Recovery Authority (ARA), Wanjohi and Wanjiru are listed as first and second respondents, while Sidjoe Manufactures and Suppliers and Marudiano Zone Limited as third and fourth respondents.

The properties will be forfeited to the government and transferred to the ARA.

The application was supported by affidavits sworn by Corporal Fredrick Muriuki, an investigating officer attached to the authority.

Elephant tusks

The couple, who are residents of Muthaiga North in Nairobi, were arrested on July 12, 2018, and charged the following day before the senior principal magistrate’s court at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

They faced various charges, including possession of wildlife trophies contrary to the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.

According to the ARA, a search at the respondents’ home resulted in recovery of four pieces of elephant tusks, assorted alcoholic drinks, cash totalling to Sh469,000, a motor vehicle registration number KCD 299H and mobile phones.

The applicant further states that on August 6, 2018, ARA received information that the respondents had acquired massive assets using proceeds of illegitimate trade in wildlife trophies and narcotic drugs.

Accordingly, ARA opened an inquiry file to investigate and inquire into the couple’s activities to ascertain whether they held any funds that were proceeds of crime.

The investigations established that the assets and funds were proceeds of crime obtained from illegitimate trade in wildlife and narcotic drugs.

It was also established that Wanjohi and Wanjiru had jointly registered the assets in their names and in the name of the fourth respondent in order to conceal and disguise the source of funds used to procure the assets.

The judge noted that the respondents had not given any reasonable explanation to prove the source of funds used to acquire the assets. 

Muriuki had told the court that their investigations against Wanjohi and Wanjiru had started in 2005, adding that they had been under active investigations for narcotics trafficking, distribution and sale; illegitimate trading of wildlife trophies, organised crime and money laundering.

The officer also said on October 16, 2009, Wanjohi and his wife were arrested at their Muthaiga home while in possession of 1,274 grammes of heroin and were subsequently charged in a Kibera court, Nairobi, with trafficking in narcotic drugs. 

Conduit agencies

He told the court that investigations against the couple established the two respondents had devised a complex scheme and criminal network mechanism of acquiring, trafficking, distributing and selling narcotic drugs through family members, associates and hired moles within and outside Kenya.

ARA said the benefits from the trade in narcotic drugs and wildlife trophies were subsequently delivered to the respondents by way of physical cash and deposits into their identified bank accounts by their agents, associates and conduit entities in order to conceal and disguise the source of the funds.

However, the respondents had in their replying affidavit sworn by Wanjohi on behalf of others on April 23, 2019 opposed the forfeiture application, saying the applicant had not demonstrated any reasonable grounds to believe the properties and money in question had either been used or are intended for use in the commission of an offence or are the proceeds of crime.

According to Wanjohi, he had a reasonable explanation on how he obtained the funds. 

He states the money was regular income from trading activities from lawful businesses, adding that there was a paper trail of the flow of funds to support it.

He contends that he and the 2nd respondent have been involved in legitimate business for many years. Such businesses include At vita Enterprises, hardware business and import and retail of clothes. 

He asserts that they have various business permits from the relevant government agencies, citing in this regard annexure which he states are copies of certificates of registration, lease agreements and business permits for the various businesses that he owns.

But in her ruling, Justice Ndungu said she was satisfied the assets and funds were the proceeds of crime. 

“All the evidence before the court leads to the conclusion that the funds and assets are proceeds of crime,” she ruled.

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