Firm gets a week to fight for frozen Sh2.36 billion

Frozen money concept. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A company whose Sh2.36 billion was frozen in June over links to an international card fraud syndicate has been given seven days to agree with Ecobank on documents to be used in the case as it fights fraud claims.

Justice Esther Maina directed Kiwipay Kenya Limited and Ecobank to complete talks within a week so that the forfeiture suit filed by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) can proceed for hearing.

The State agency alleges that the funds, which have since been temporarily frozen, are proceeds of crime involving credit or debit card fraud.

The company, which has been linked to a woman from the Southeast Asian nation of Laos with the backing of four Kenyans, wants the bank to release the documents expeditiously as it seeks to prove that it was engaged in genuine business.

KiwiPay stated that its business has been hurting after the funds at Ecobank were frozen by the court.

“We having written to ARA in having the matter concluded fast. Our business is hurting as a result of freeze orders. The company is facing multiple suits arising from the freeze orders and we urge the court to issue strict timelines for the bank to provide us with all the list of documents we requested,” said the firm in its pleadings.

The ARA says in its application that Kiwipay Kenya Limited was registered on June 3, 2020, with Ms Monthida Rashi from Laos and Kenyans Stephen Njenga Maina, Felix Rantuu Lekishe, Solomon Joseph Maina and Robert Lemerketo as directors.

The case will be mentioned on October 4 to confirm if the bank has retrieved all the documents.

The court barred Kiwipay and its directors, agents or servants from withdrawing, dealing or interfering with the funds that are held in two separate bank accounts— one with $18.38 million (Sh2.22 billion) and the other $1.1 million (Sh133.1 million).

“Preliminary investigations have established that the respondents were involved in an intricate money-laundering scheme designed to conceal, disguise the nature, source and disposition of the illicit funds, suspected to constitute proceeds of crime,” said Stephen Githinji, a senior State counsel attached to ARA.

The company says it offers digital payment services such as QR Code solutions for retail shops, hotels and restaurants by enabling foreign e-wallet solutions such as Alipay, SamsungPay, ApplePay, WeChatPay and more.

ARA investigating officer Sautet Jeremiah told the court that Kiwipay Kenya is suspected to be part of a transnational syndicate involved in complex money laundering schemes with operations in multiple foreign jurisdictions.

The court heard that the preliminary investigations has revealed that the company is not licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya to operate the business they are engaged under the provisions of the National Payment System Act, Act No. 39 of 2011.

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