The fight for more than Sh2 billion that had initially been frozen over money laundering claims at Ecobank has intensified as feuding owners of the firm at the centre of the row seek control of bank accounts.
More than four cases have so far been filed before the High Court as shareholders and directors of Kiwipay Kenya Limited wrangle.
Justice Dorah Chepkwony, on Wednesday, directed the parties to file their submissions as she considers who among three Kenyans, a woman from Laos and a French passport holder, should control the bank accounts.
The fight involves Gregory Schmidt, and Monthida Rashi from Laos against three Kenyans Stephen Maina Njenga, Felix Rantu Lekishe and Solomon Joseph Maina. Several law firms also lay claim to the money.
“The ex-parte order dated January 6, 2023, has the effect of granting access to the fifth defendant (KiwiPay Kenya) accounts to the plaintiff (Ms Rashi) and rogue individuals to the detriment of the second defendant (KiwiPay PTE) which is the majority shareholder,” lawyer Kiprotich Kiprop said.
The bank accounts were unfrozen last September, a few days after the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) dropped a case seeking to forfeit the millions to the government, over money laundering claims.
But Mr Schmidt went back to court and claimed Mr Njenga had obtained a court order for the status quo to be maintained regarding the directorship of KiwiPay Kenya Ltd, yet they had already resigned as directors.
The Frenchman said the parent company KiwiPay PTE, registered in Singapore, has the controlling shares in the Kenyan company.
He said KiwiPay PTE held 51 percent of the Kenyan company, Ms Rashi 20 percent, while the Kenyans held 7.5 percent each but they later resigned as directors.
Ms Rashi later sued Ecobank accusing the lender of releasing the money and obtained an order stopping the further release of the money.
Another company known as Avistia SRO Ltd also joined the fight and accused the lender of allowing the withdrawal of $13,473,110 (Sh1.7 billion) from its three accounts.
Ms Rashi is a director with Paygram Company Ltd and claims that funds held in accounts owned by her company were debited into accounts of other entities such as Kiwipay PTE and Kiwipay Kenya Ltd without her consent and knowledge.
She obtained the order on January 6 but Mr Schmidt moved back to court and claimed the order issued by Justice Chepkwony was in conflict with an earlier order issued by Justice David Majanja.
Mr Kiprop said Ms Rashi is no longer a director of KiwiPay Kenya after a resolution for her removal was allegedly passed last November.
The lawyer said the order should be lifted because it exposes the bank accounts to unwarranted access, without his client’s approval.
Mr Ngure on his part said there is no proof that he resigned as a director of KiwiPay Kenya Ltd.
He urged the court to extend the freeze order until the directorship row is resolved.